Vienna (Austria)

August 24, 2010 (Tuesday) – August 27, 2010 (Friday):

Vienna. The Congress of Vienna. The birthplace of classical music. The center of the Hapsburg dynasty. But to me, a city of childhood misrepresentations.

Growing up, the word Vienna stirred images in my mind of Vienna sausage and Wiener schnitzel.  But after growing up, I realized, things are not what they seem. Case in point, a wiener schnitzel:

Clearly, something got lost in translation or these were the evil workings of the Madison Avenue Don Drapers.

At any rate, one image of Vienna that proved true were the beautiful building architectures, invoking childhood memories of the architecture I saw in the movie Amadeus.  Our first day in Vienna we spent the afternoon touring Schloss Schoenbrunn, the Hapsburgs’ summer palace.  (I’ve come to learn on this trip, castle/palace translates to schloss or burg).  The exterior of this palace, however, wasn’t as grand as the other notable buildings in Vienna.  Perhaps, it was the paint job.  Whereas most of the other palaces/churches were left “colored” in their natural stone material, Schloss Schoenbrunn appeared to have been given a new coat of yellow paint.   Not a flattering shade for such a grand palace.  But, as the saying goes, you can’t judge a Burg by its color.

Because as it turns out, the interior and the rooms of the palace are what one would expect to be fit for an emperor and empress.   High vaulted ceilings, ornate and regal furnishings, decorations with no spared expense.   Kind of reminded me of my first studio apartment in San Francisco, except exactly the opposite.  One of the rooms we toured in the palace was said to be the chamber in which the young prodigy Mozart performed for the emperor and empress.   Yup, just as I remembered from Amadeus.   I should have just re-watched that movie before we came to Vienna.   We could have just used that as our tour guide.

So, speaking of Mozart, we wanted to take in either an opera or Vienna Philharmonic’s concert while in town.   But apparently, neither have performances in the months of July and August. (I really don’t know why summer is a popular season for tourists to visit Europe, lots of things/places are closed, it’s hot, hotels/flights prices are inflated).  Anyway, so instead, at the opera house (and many of the other performing arts theaters in Vienna) they have a performing ensemble that put on a concert of portions Mozart’s greatest pieces, performed in full Viennese garb (period attire and powdered wig).  It was quite fun.

Oh, I should also mention, our stay in Vienna would be the first time staying in a hostel on this trip.  Although, the room that we got at this hostel was more of a hotel-type room than a typical dorm-style room, with an en-suite bathroom.  Thus far, we’ve been staying in hotels, but apparently hotels in Vienna were expensive, so Miriam found this hostel that got good reviews, with some rooms being more hotel-like.   I’ve stayed in hostels (dorm-room style) before in London and Paris, but for Miriam, this would be her first hostel experience.   So now, at least she can say she’s been hosteling before, though I don’t think she’ll ever want to do dorm-room style where she would have to share the bathroom.

Anyway, the following day we went to the museum at Upper Belvedere.   Vienna, being a city of culture be it architecture, music or the arts, we had to limit ourselves on how many museums to visit.   Otherwise we’d get museum-overdose during our three days here.   So we chose the Art History Museum and the Upper Belvedere museum.   The Upper Belvedere had such great exhibits, highlighted by a huge collection by Klimt and Egon Schiele.  Of course we spent the most time in these collection rooms, and just marveled at Klimt’s arguably most famous work, “The Kiss”.   Another painting that Miriam really liked was Klimt’s “Judith”.  I think the feminist-power story behind the painting is what allured Miriam.  Unfortunately, the museum didn’t allow photos inside so I don’t have any pictures of these works, and of Schiele’s works that we liked.  I really wanted to take pictures, especially because others were taking pictures.  But Miriam wouldn’t let me.   She’s a real stickler for rules.

In the evening, we took a nice stroll from Stephansdom down Graben and Kohlmarkt, then walked around the Hofburg taking in the wonderful buildings.  Later, we took a tram to Rathaus where during the summer months they were holding an outdoor film festival.  Such nice evening weather, great outdoor international food stands, and on this evening, an outdoor screening of a classical music concert.  A perfect way to end a great three days in Vienna.

To view more pictures from Vienna, visit the Photos.

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