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Published: December 14th 2019
Vienna Sunday 8th
December 2019 – Friday 13th
Waltzing Vienna!! A few days away to celebrate Chris’ 73rd birthday!
We had a lunchtime flight so quite a leisurely day arriving at the hotel about 4.00pm. No problems at all, an easy journey from the airport to the OPP Wien Hauptbahnhof (Central Vienna Station) and a five minute walk to our Hotel (Hotel Prinz Eugen) Apart from having a little local wander and a local gluhwien we had a relaxing evening, getting ready to explore Vienna tomorrow.
After a good breakfast we set off 9.30ish and caught the Blue Line on the Big Red Bus, past Belvedere Palace to Hofburg, the Winter Palace, the last royals that lived there - Franz Joseph and Elizabeth (also known as Sissi). It was enormous but we didn’t realise until later, because the Royal family had so much money, and different monarchs added different parts to the Palace, hence all its different styles. It has apparently got over 3000 rooms!! Got tickets for the Horse Training tomorrow am (the Spanish Riding School was built by Charles VI – I think he was Sissis’ father!!) and then
walked via loads of amazing buildings. Including the Opera House, to the start of our free walking tour which was led by a very funny guy called Charles!!
He explained loads of history, including how Austria welcomed Hitler to become an alliance and how the Jews were so, so persecuted and 100,000 were killed. There is a monument now showing the gates of Hades and a Jewish man on his knees, painting out graffiti with paintbrushes amongst jeers from the marauding crowd. Terrible history and one which, hopefully will never, ever be repeated. He then took us into the Royal Church where the royals got married and then onto the Library! Most of the rest of the time was spent in the different sections in the Winter Palace before the tour ended at St Stephens Cathedral. It had got colder by now (3c!) and after wandering around the Christmas market there, we went inside the Cathedral, to warm up! Resisted the urge to go to the Crypt and the Tower ( 6 euros per person, each one!)
Took the Big red bus on the tour, crossing the Danube canal and down to the Big wheel, before crossing the
Danube where you could see the hills that surround Vienna and vineyards.
By now it was starting to get dark and with all the Christmas lights, the city looked very pretty! Saw the Hotel Sacher – with its queues to go in the coffee shop and sample the Sacher Cake (basically chocolate cake, with a layer of marmalade and topped with chocolate!) Went to the coffee shop around the corner (Café Tirolerhof – well something like that!!) that our Walking guide had recommended (and also the apple strudel was the best in town!!)
Walked around again, looking at the Christmas lights before getting the Old Historic Tram around the circle of the Old Town. It was certainly an old tram – somewhat ruined a bit by having a sign - Big Bus Tour – on top of the tram!! Enjoyed the ride, our guide ( who happened to be Charles from our walking tour!) pointing out all the famous cafes, hotels, buildings etc, that famous people such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Strauss, Sigmund Freud, USA President had frequented or stayed at!
Wandered around the Christmas craft market before getting the tube back to the Central Station.
We woke up to bright sunny blue skies, with a view of Vienna and the hills around – made a change from the foggy start yesterday! But there was bitterly cold wind as well so still very cold! Jumped on the Blue Route Big Bus to Hofburg and as it was after 10.00am made our way to the Riding School. Huge queue, but apparently of you have a ticket you can skip these queues – which is what we did!! Amazing arena - managed to get a seat after about ½ hr and watch the horses exercising. There is only so much walking, trotting and cantering horses you can watch, even if they are Lipizzaner and very light on their feet, so we left after the about an hour to get the Green Line Big Bus to the Hundertwasser House.
Walked past where the Lipizzaner horses are stabled before getting on the bus and as we either had to stay 5 mins or 1hr 5mins we sat down for lunch as well (a rare treat!!) Took pictures and admired the house – it has no straight lines in the house and
has trees growing out of floors and spectacular balconies. Hundertwasser only died in the year 2000 on board the Queen Elizabeth II, on his way back to Europe from New Zealand, and is buried in NZ, in the Garden of the Happy Dead, under a tulip tree! Coincidentally, we had seen ‘ the most beautiful loos’ in Kawakawa, New Zealand that were also designed by Hundertwasser.
By the time we got back on the Green Line and got the Blue bus to Schonbrunn Palace it was 3.00pm and the sun was beginning to set! So it was straight up to the Glorietta to get some views of Vienna while it was still light!! By the time we got back down to the Palace we had missed the last Grand Tour of the Palace and had to content ourselves with the Imperial Tour as the Palace shut at 5.00pm. Very rococo style – white with a lot of gold. It was quite sad because Franz Joseph spent a lot of time in this Palace (and actually died there!) whilst Elizabeth spent a lot of time galivanting around Europe, eventually being stabbed to death by an Italian arnachist in Paris. Franz
Joseph was heartbroken when he learnt about her death. You got the impression that he really loved her. and she didn’t really like him at all, just married him at 15 years old because it was her duty. She had about 16 children and she only let her favourite daughter marry for love – the rest were married to unite Austria.
Wandered around the Christmas Market and had something to eat and drink, before going to the orangery to see if it was possible to go to the concert this evening. Unfortunately. the concert didn’t start until 20.30pm and we didn’t fancy hanging around for 2 ½ hours, so we got the Underground back to Karlsplatt and walked to the Town Hall where there was ‘supposed to be’ the best market.
It was ok! Walked through the town, past loads of different Christmas markets, different streets we hadn’t seen before, even found an arcade, before we reached the town hall market! It was very colourful, loads of lights, trees lit up and a skating rink/circuit as well as the usual Christmas stalls and a funfair!
Back to the hotel about 21.45 via a couple of tube trains!
A busy day planned so up early to get the first (9.00am) Big Blue Bus to Belvedere! Saw the Upper Belvedere Palace with its frozen lake in front of it. and then walked down through the gardens to the Lower Belvedere Palace! Didn’t go inside either one!!
Then caught the tram (no 71) out to the 620 acres (I think!) Central Cemetery. Got off the tram at Gate 1 and walked past the old Israelite section with its old Jewish graves and then walked up to the main entrance – Gate 2. Kept an eye out for hamsters on the way - The wild hamsters were mentioned in a recent David Attenbrough programme, when they couldn’t work out what was stealing the flowers and candles from the graves and then discovered that it was the wild hamsters!! Anyway, apart from a few holes and displaced candles and flowers, we didn’t see any hamsters!! They could have been hibernating because although it was bright and sunny, there was a hard frost on the ground! We did manage to see some famous graves. Such as Beethoven (Yes – THE Beethoven!) Schubert, Johann Strauss – father
and son as well as a memorial to Mozart. His remains are thought to be buried at St Marx cemetery. Went to the main church (Church of St Borromeo) an example of Gesamtkunstwek – whatever that means, in the centre of the cemetery.
Caught the tram back and went in Karlskirche. It is a church dedicated to the plague epidemic in Vienna that killed over 8000 people in 1713 ordered by Emperor Charles VI. In 2002 they had decided to renovate the church roof and repaint the frescos in the dome and installed a lift for the workers! The lift was still in place and now took visitors up to the dome, so that you could look down on the church! Bit of a vertigo moment for me but managed it! Amazingly different perspective! It also has two huge mirror balls hanging down so it makes the church appear bigger than it actually is.
Walked back through Burggarten saw the Mozart monument, before going into the old Victorian glass house to the Butterfly Garden! Lots of amazing butterflies, a good warm up, but a fairly small place. I thought it would run the whole 300 metres but it
was a café in the middle section and an overwintering plant section in the last part!
After a quick lunch…and it was only 2.30pm….we decided to take the underground to Heiligenstadt, and then the 38A bus to Kahlensberg……..trip went quite smoothly …we didn’t quite make Kahlensberg but got off at a viewpoint and managed to get fantastic views of the City and see the grapevines up on top of the hills.
Got off the tram at Stadtpark…… and then saw the monument of Strauss (golden violinist) before wandering back into the town to see if we could get some opera tickets!
We did well, …or so we thought! 10.00 Euros for standing up in the State Opera House for Orlando by Virginia Wolf! We queued at 5.30 and was in the Opera House by 18.00. Wow! Amazing place! Three storeys and loads of arches and stairways – it was truly amazing…well…..that was until the opera started!! Not recommended at all!! Orlando was a bloke that fell in love with a woman, then retreated to his bed for a week and then woke up as a woman and helped abused kids!! The music was terrible!! Left at half
Thursday 12th December 2019
Big Day! Chris’ birthday and Election Day! Will I end up £31,300.00 richer or not – not holding my breath that Labour will win!! We had decided, being Vienna’d out…that we would catch the train to the Spa Town of Baden………A nice relaxing day!
Got the fast train (My favourite – a double-decker!!) without too many problems for the half hour journey, past loads of villages, churches and vineyard covered hillsides and walked up the main street to Josefs-platz with its Christmas market (firmly shut!!) Got a map from Tourist Information (behind the glassed Gruner Market and then followed the route around the village! Lovely Rose Garden – it would have been even better with more roses out – and past the frozen lake!! Thermalstandbad ( the thermal outdoor Lido) was shut but we did have a wander up to the Beethoventemple (which was also shut for renovation!) for some fine views of the church and town. Saw the Christmas market there as well, but that was also very shut!!!
Strolled back into town and had a look at the Church, lighting a candle for Tom on what would
have been his 76th
birthday before going into a local coffee shop for some lunch. Walked past Beethoven’s house and a cup of Gluhwein at Hauptplatz, the main square completed our visit!!
Back on a slow train stopping at every station along the way and back to the hotel by 4.00pm
Had a lovely birthday meal in Vapiano’s – a chain we had found for the first time in Berlin. Although they have changed the formula slightly ie – they don’t cook the meal in front of you, its still good food, ordered to suit your taste online. And best of all, it started snowing and by the time we walked to the Belvedere Christmas Market, it was like a winter wonderland!! Of course, we had to have a few birthday bevvies of Gluhwein to keep us warm then!!
Back to the hotel by 9,30ish to watch the Exit Polls for the General Election. Looks like its going to be a Conservative landslide for Boris! Bang goes my hope of Pension Compensation!!
Today was a travel day back to the UK! Somehow, we always manage to get cheap flights on Friday
Got the train to the Airport – everywhere was white with snow! Very pretty! We were flying at 11.05am, a two hour flight, a National Express bus and then a City Bus (good job I remembered my bus pass!!) and home by 4.00pm.
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