I was looking forward to my first visit to Vienna and spending time with my friend Pearl Nitsche who had very graciously offered us a room in her huge apartment for a week of exploring her city.
But, sometimes unforeseen things happen. Due to much- needed surgery, which Pearl had hoped would have been scheduled long before our arrival – or after our departure, she was released from the hospital the day we arrived.
She and her very nice son, Derrick, greeted us, and it was decided that he would stay in the room that was to be ours and care for his mother, and Joyce and I would take over his apartment which was just two blocks away.
We were so grateful for his generosity that I didn’t mind having to figure out how to sleep and get in-and-out of his bed that was 4 feet off the floor, and, which had been built into what was originally the hall closet. I had to climb up/in using a footstool. Joyce laughed hysterically when I fell out the first time trying to come down feet first. I quickly learned that scooting out on my tummy with my feet dangling down until they touched the floor was the only way to get out safely.
We were within a 10-minute walk to one of Vienna’s lovely trams which quietly whisked us into the city center. As usual, we signed up for a free walking tour after a quick visit to the local tourist information office. After picking up maps and brochures galore, we soon realized that not all walking tours are created equal. The one available in Vienna did not have a limit on participants like the many others we had taken. The group assembled soon went from 5 to 15 to 25 to 30. There is a point where a tour with this many people is just a waste of time as you can’t hear the tour leader, and you get stepped on and over by others. We chose to sit and have a cold beer instead!
Though we find Hop On – Hop Off buses expensive and very ‘touristy,’ they sometimes serve a purpose. In Vienna we got 3 very long (up to 2 hours) tours to 3 different parts of the city and would have missed one of our favorite stops if it hadn’t been for one tour. We found the Hundertwasserhaus and Kunst Haus Wien Museum.
I had heard about and seen Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s work when living in New Zealand. I went out of my way while visiting in the Bay of Plenty to see his famous ‘bathrooms!’ So, I was totally thrilled to find a whole block of his very unusual apartment buildings AND a whole museum featuring his amazing and oh-so-colorful paintings in Vienna His art might not be everyone’s taste, but just seeing his work can’t help but make everyone smile!
Vienna showed us her very stoic Austrian face – large and very clean official buildings and palaces with interesting filigree and adornments everywhere.
Empress Maria Theresa, who managed to have 16 children while ruling the vast Habsburg Empire, ended the feudal system and brought education and culture for the first time to everyone. Her reign was the first of what would become The Age of Enlightenment. Her influence and statues can be seen wherever you look in Vienna.
We also found some fun and very different sites and statues as we walked around the city, including a big bunny on top of a hot dog stand; a pink pig ATM machine and dozens of Mozarts, Beethovens and Bachs wandering the city streets. Joyce couldn’t resist saying hello.
We spent an afternoon in the MAC Museum (modern art) and saw a beautiful retrospective of early 1900’s art, craft and furnishings – plus a couple of extremely weird displays on A.I. and found-object art.
We took a stroll to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It was big! We did ask ourselves if it was just us, or if all cathedrals were starting to look alike?
Of course, after a hard day of sightseeing, one must stop and indulge at the one place where everyone who comes to Vienna stops – The Cafe Sacher. Invented in 1832, their world-famous torte is two layers of chocolate cake separated by a layer of apricot jam and covered with dark-chocolate icing with a dollop of real whipped cream on the side. The calorie counter doesn’t go this high – but who’s counting? Of course, a glass of Prosecco is a must accompaniment to this Viennese treat.
We toured the Opera House – but couldn’t see an opera. I wanted to see the royal Lipizzaner horses perform – but we couldn’t. And there were several other sites we were hoping to see – and couldn’t. Why? They were all on vacation! The opera singers and even the horses were on their summer break. Remember that the next time you plan a trip to Vienna in July.
We did get to see the royal jewels which are housed in Hofburg Palace. My, oh my. Just one little (or big) jewel from a crown or necklace would fund my retirement forever! And it was wide open. I’ll explain that in more detail when I blog about our tour of the Crown Jewels in London.
The collection was magnificent – robes, staffs, crowns, necklaces, goblets, etc. etc. Overwhelming wealth is hard to imagine until you see so much in one or two rooms! We had a great audio guide and wandered from room to room in our own time with no guards in sight.
I had to include a photo of the gentleman who took our entry ticket – don’t you just love his beard?
After 7 days, we were exhausted and didn’t see even a tiny part of everything there was to see and do in Vienna, which is always a great reason to return.
We were so happy that Pearl, along with Derrick, could join us for dinner our last night in town. We had a lovely stay but now it’s on to Barcelona-by-the-sea for 3 days of doing nada!
Until next time….