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Published: September 28th 2010
Again, we slept in. It was nearly 9am when I woke up. Jer phoned to secure a tour reservation at the big Austrian palace—I’m not up to looking it up right now so it will be known as Big-Aus-Palace in this blog. Basically, it’s a huge palace that rivaled Versailles. We dressed and hurried across town via street tram for our tour.
I was still on edge from the day before. Again, Vienna appeared an unattractive and dirty smudge of a city.
Jer and I had not yet had breakfast so we stopped at the first café we spotted situated just inside the palace gates. The woman manning the counter was pushy, which resulted in Jer over ordering food (she told him the thing he wanted was “small” so he ordered a second thing), me growing annoyed because I thought Jer was ordering for both of us and then turning to me and asking, “What are you having?” and the woman thrusting change in Jer’s hand before I’d even pulled out the handful of Euro change clinking around the bottom of my purse. I secured a table for us while Jer waited for the hot food (pizza), which in-a-hurry-lady had forgotten about so it was slightly burned. Oh well. It was still eatable. Sort of.
Jer relayed a fit he witnessed an ugly American throw when the coffee he ordered came with milk. Lovely! I failed to mention how I upset an entire army of pigeons while walking toward an open bistro table. I don’t know what was scarier; an American flapping his mouth or over a dozen birds madly flapping their wings in hasty escape.
After our breakfast we still had about twenty minutes to kill before our tour. We made use of the extra time by exploring the front of the palace, climbing up the front steps, snapping some pictures, and marveling over the huge expanse of the front area.
The palace “grand” tour comprised of the viewing of 40 rooms. Photographs were not permitted. I guess that’s okay. I made up for it on the backside; I took so many photos of the palace grounds. The palace was really crowded. The public restrooms reeked of pee and was swarmed with flies. Perhaps the royals would have thought such toilets appropriate for the commoners viewing their prized home.
The grounds were huge and gorgeous. Still crawling with tourists, but I guess we are like lemmings that way when we flock to pretty and historical places. Jer wanted to visit the labyrinths located on one side of the grounds. Yes, labyrinths. Three, to be exact. One was a manicured hedge maze, another was shorter with activities, and the final was unkempt with puzzles. We made it through the first, did most of the second, and did very little of the third. Our reward for our efforts was ice cream. We watched kids play in the playground while we snacked and rested. We observed the “play at our own risk signs” and the playground equipment that included a backhoe contraption and a dirt operation that would never be allowed at US playgrounds. It’s too bad, too. The stuff looked like a lot of fun to play on.
Then we visited the huge Neptune fountain which dominates the base of the hillside on the far end of the palace grounds. They go further—up the hillside—but we only went so far as the back as the backside of Neptune’s fountain. After a couple of additional diversions, we headed back to the hotel to regroup.
Our plan was to visit the opera house and have a tour. The tour book said that tours ended at 4pm. We arrived at 4pm and realized all of them had started at 3pm. Oh well. You’ve seen one opera house, you’ve seen them all, I say. Well, that is not entirely true, but there you go.
We decided to visit a museum. There are several to visit, and several were in the near area. Our decision to view the City of Vienna museum was mostly determined by its promise of Klimpt paintings. Actually, it was a nice reprieve from the crazy crowded hustle and bustle of the palace. It also provided a good overview of the history of Vienna, which was both informative and amusing. Essentially, the city was attacked by the Turks a couple of times, tried to become enlightened only to have their efforts squashed by the upper classes, and then became a haven for art and culture.
(as an aside, the crosswalk lights in Vienna tick like old time bombs)
We saw a few Klimpt paintings. Not the ones we thought we were seeing, but there were three very good examples on display.
Once finished there, we decided to visit an open-air market mentioned in Rick Steves’ book. I would mention the name of it but I can’t remember it so you get ‘big market’ instead. It was huge and impressive. Any food you can dream of was being sold at more than one stall. We bought some nougat bars and a bag of paprika. The market was closing up for the day. Jer and I were starving so we were again in that awkward position of being hungry but not sure of what we should eat. There were plenty of options: asian, Italian, Austrian, Mediterranean, etc. Jer really wanted kebab so we wandered quite a bit. Eventually we settled on a spot that served Mediterranean. We ordered wine and split a hummus plate. I had soup and Jer had chicken. It was all very good.
We planned to walk back down to the shopping area. On our way, we passed the Opera house. People were filing into the front doors and side doors. We contemplated buying standing room tickets but decided a night of Opera, even Tosca, was too much opera for us. We walked around the outside and caught sight of the jumbo screen and seats set up. A guy in an opera cape walked the aisle, offering programs. Once the seats were all occupied, he set out felt squares for people to sit on. Commercials were playing. Jer and I sat down and waited for the show. Eventually all of the seats were filled and the Opera started. We stayed for about fifteen minutes.
I knew that Vienna was the home of the sacher-torte and that it’s place of origin was somewhere around the opera house. At about that moment, we came across the Sacher hotel. Putting two and two together, I realized this was *the place* of the sacher-torte. Jer thought I was crazy but, like a good husband, he indulged my excitement. We sat outside and had a chocolate frenzy: sacher-torte with cream to split, a chocolate milk shake for Jer and something called the café-sacher for me. Our seat in the garten provided us an angled glance of the Opera’s jumbo screen. The design of the opera was bright red and white cowboy. Dancers giddy-upped around the stage in short red hot pants. Thanks for keeping Opera classy, Vienna!
On our way back to the U-bahn we passed a couple of street performers. The night was still going strong—it was only about 8pm—but Jer and I were pooped. We decided to call it a night. I fought with the internet at our hotel until late in the morning (I’d call it a draw) and watched a lot of CNN and MTV.
All in all, I decided to like Vienna. I don’t think I fell in love with it, but I definitely experienced and discovered aspects which I could appreciate.
And my rain jacket has not yet been useful, save as a pillow.
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