Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Vienna, Austria

Vienna's Stately Opera House
Grüß Gott! And greetings from Vienna, Austria - home to the Hapsburg Empire, Mozart, Strauss, Klimt and more beauty than we could possibly see in three days.

But I'll be dipped if we didn't try.
We checked into our hotel Thursday evening where a complimentary Gugelhupf cake was served in the lobby (think small, light bundt cake). When we got to our room, there was a fresh carafe of water in our room with a note saying it came directly from the Alps via the aqueduct built by Emperor Franz Josef. And so set the tone for our next 72 hours.  

Now an art museum, the Belvedere Palace was
once home to Prince Eugene of Savoy.
Friday morning we walked to the Belvedere Palace. Once the summer home of Prince Eugene of Savoy, it's now an art gallery housing, among others, a wide array of Gustav Klimt paintings, including his famous gold "Kiss." 
In addition to the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts, and Danhausers,  there was also a startling exhibit of marble busts by F.X. Messerschmidt, called Character Heads. No photography was allowed in the exhibit rooms but if  you feel like seeing something quirky, click that link. I dare you.

Sigmund Freud's Waiting Room
From the Upper and Lower Belvedere wings we walked to the city center's Albertina Museum,  mainly to see the famous Edward Munch exhibit. From there (and after a piece of Sacher torte at a nearby coffee house) we hopped the U-Bahn north to visit Sigmund Freud's apartments just as daylight began to fade.
Freud lived and worked in Vienna for 40 years, developing his reputation as father of psychoanalysis before being forced to pay the Nazis the equivalent of $200,000 so he and his family could leave the country unharmed.  

Back to the hotel for a quick wardrobe change then out for - what else? -  eine, kleine Nacht Musik. A little night music at the Haus des Industrie to hear Vienna's Royal Orchestra play two hours of Mozart and Strauss hits.  I recognized most of the program, and not just because Bugs Bunny had done a superb job introducing the music to Americans. Rather, I began classical piano lessons when I was 10 and became enthralled with the music for the next couple decades. So here in Vienna, when the first tantalizing notes of Mozart’s Figaro Overture crept in, and as the strings and timpani crescendo’ed, emotions welled up that I didn't know were even there. Not a dry eye in my head.

Vienna's Royal Orchestra taking their bows at the end of their Mozart and Strauss concert

Walking through the village of Dürnstein along the Danube
The next day we took a trip along the Danube River to the medieval town of Krems, then to Dürnstein where England's King Richard the Lionheart was once held for ransom.

From there we traveled through the Wachau Valley's wine country. The valley is a Unesco World Heritage site and is designated with Outstanding Universal Value. We continued on through Willendorf (home of the famous 24,000 year old Venus thereof),  then toured the baroque abbey at Melk.

Once back in Vienna we sat down to a delicious grilled dinner in the Naschmarkt, a quarter-mile long market place that has been in operation since the 16th century. 
The next day we rose early for our Sunday morning walk. One perque of getting out and about before the usual tourist throng is quietly enjoying an unexpected treat - like hearing a choir rehearse in an old church long since abandoned for prayer. 
We had just enough time to walk through the Vienna's Central Park and by the famous Spanish Riding School where the Lippizaner horses are stabled. From there we squeezed in one last coffee house visit (Nuss torte, this time) then said auf Wiedersehen to Vienna.

A slice of Nuss Torte (nut torte) and one final coffee
For more photos of our trip to Vienna, clicken Sie hier, bitte.


While walking through a side alley early Sunday morning, I heard beautiful ethereal music coming from nearby. I turned the corner and entered Augustinian Church. There I stood quietly, and listened to this lovely rehearsal.