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Published: September 15th 2014
$6.50 For A Cup Of Coffee. Vienna Waits For You.
The famous old coffee houses of Vienna are disappearing fast. The buildings are being changed into luxury goods operations. We located this second stringer about 5 blocks from the square After paying $13 for 2 cups of Joe I figured that our waitress owed us a pose.
The price list includes tours with live guide, tours with video guide, tours with audio guide or simple access to the church's interior without any guidance whatsoever. Prices range from $6 US to $39 US depending on what it is you want to see. The impoverished are allowed to view St Stephan's interior from behind a wooden railing tucked along a side wall. Where's Martin Luther when you need him? Long lines of bucket-list westerners waited in drooping lines to secure their final indulgences. Visa and MasterCard are eagerly accepted. Dominus vobiscum. Welcome to Vienna.
We left Ljubljana via mini-van. The fare was 25 Euros each which was much less than the train fare of 78 Euros plus the van was faster. Miha arranged the ride for us. Thanks Miha! We left Slovenia at 4PM and reached Vienna at 8 that evening. It was good to be back in a place where we had a handle on the language.
I hadn't been to Vienna since 1978. Back in those days the Soviets were on every Austrian's mind and being an American soldier gave me minor celebrity status. In Germany I was an occupier, in Austria; A liberator. People chatted
Absolutely stunning interior. Really one of a kind.
up the political news while sipping hot beverages in the grand old coffee houses that fenced St. Stefans-Platz. Those cafes were venerable institutions. Viennese families would patronize the same establishments for generations. Mahogany paneled walls, white-gloved waiters pushing trundle carts from table to table offering up fresh pastries. Soft, thick Persian carpets imbued the high-ceiling rooms with a library sort of vibe. We reflexively lowered our voices when speaking. The atmosphere in the salons was like velvet on the nape of your neck. The world's newspapers could be found on time-worn, wooden spindle racks. The tinkling of china and the turning of broadsheets punctuated the quiet. Life in Vienna might have been politically tense but Viennese culture was nothing less than 'refined'.
Today those coffee houses in the Platz are gone. Replaced by designer-handbag boutiques. Prada. Gucci, Rolex and Hermes dominate the Platz now. Let the good times roll. Tour groups clog the cobble-stoned square with broods of old, newborn world travelers. Cameras bolted to their faces. Snapping at anything and everything. Huge, Viking-Line tour buses idle along the Platz perimeter waiting to be reloaded for another stop along the Danube. Currency exchanges and ATM machines ring the church
offering Euros at usurious rates. Men dressed in 17th Century garb circulate through the crowds hustling tickets to Mozart performances. These days Vienna is all about the money but what major city isn't?
Visually the city is as grand as ever. Baroque, Romanesque, Art Nouveau; Vienna has it all. Beautifully manicured parks adorned with Greek Revival temples. Tourists cruise the broad boulevards in horse drawn carriages. Karen and I spied a huge circus tent set up directly in front of the Vienna city hall for a two week gig. Vienna has one of the best public transport systems in the world. $11 will get you a pass good for 24-hours on streetcars, buses and subways. Get on the streetcar and circumnavigate the old city via the Ringstraße
for as long as you like. The ultimate Hop-On Hop-Off tour. We stop in the Franz Josef Banhof for Lebekase (liver cheese). It's one of our favorite German foods but the best lebekase always seems to be found at the local train stations. Munich's is best. We share a table with a smiling Viennese woman who is probably old enough to remember the end of WWII. That's why she smiles.
In the Prater Park on the Danube. A poor man's version of Busch Gardens. A ride on the wheel will set you back $12 US and that's for a single, very slow circuit around the wheel.
head over to the world's oldest amusement park; The Wurstelprater. Originally a royal hunting reserve; The land was donated to the people by Emperor Josef the Second in 1766 for public entertainment. Bowling alleys, cafes and Merry-Go-Rounds sprang up almost immediately. Today it is filled with beer gardens, restaurants and rides of every kind. They're big on haunted houses in Vienna. The park is open 24/7 and admission is free but not the rides. We eat Wiener-schnitzel at a main drag beer garden. The Vienna soccer stadium is adjacent to the park. Big game that night between Austria and Slovakia. Soccer fans flood the midway dressed in team colors and wearing silly hats of every unimaginable design. A group of four happy Austrian men dressed from head to toe in Austrian red and white celebrate the day with liters of beer and huge platters of fried cutlets and pomme frites. Nothing like an international sporting event to bring out the nationalists.
We watch people spinning 400-feet above us on the Praterturm swing ride. Karen notices an African family, dressed in their native garb, seated at a table behind ours. A woman in a brilliant, emerald-hued robe and a matching
Vienna's famous amusement park and the Ferris Wheel that Orson Welles made famous in his film; 'The Third Man".
'Gele' head wrap. Her husband wears a soft lavender Dashiki with matching trousers hand-embroidered with purple silk. Absolutely beautiful. They pass by our table when they leave and we marvel at their threads. One of the soccer fans sitting next to us calls them 'Affen' and his mates all laugh. Affen is German for monkeys. KJ notices the unpleasantness but I say nothing until now.
We rode the streetcar home. It was getting dark. We passed through one of the lesser districts. Public housing. Co-Op markets. I see a drab-dressed, young couple walking arm-in-arm just ahead of us. As we pass I turn to look at their faces. Happy and smiling. How brightly they smiled at one another.
Apologies to my foreign friends for referring to their game as 'soccer'. I'm sorry but you'll have to understand that the real football season is now in progress in the USA and calling soccer 'football' would only confuse some readers. HTTR.
We are in Slovakia now. Heading to Poland on Wednesday. 2 blogs to do on Slovakia. Hopefully I can knock one out tomorrow. Our best to all. How are you doing Bernadette? Dina wrote!!! Polona and Miha;
Thanks again for everything. Tolgas, Hasan, Neuzet, Hatice, Pala, Joy and Yusuf we miss you all in Turkey but mostly we just miss the food! Isabella; Are you still practicing? Mel, I'll write you separately about D.H. Hey Markuz! Hey Alex. Be seeing you soon Spud.
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