Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vienna Revisited

At last, more playtime with Denise and Sofian!

From Salzburg the New Yorkers and I boarded a train to Vienna and parted ways at Westbanhof Station with neither of us really knowing how to get to our destinations. Obviously I found mine and Denise and Sofian arrived soon after.

It's always great to see them and Sofian was perfect baby the whole time (except for one midnight meltdown that had us considering skipping breakfast the next morning to avoid the glares).

Although the weather was supposed to make a turn for the worse again, the entire time in Vienna was good (since we successfully dodged a few brief thunderstorms).
As is my way, our time in Vienna revolved around food and palaces. Believe it or not, we didN'T eat pastry every afternoon like last time I was in Vienna with Laura (the stand with the yummy pretzels and pastries was no longer there :-(

We did start out the trip with a visit to Cafe Tirolerhof, a lovely classic Viennese cafe complete with chandeliers and waiter in tux. At first our tuxedoed waiter didn't seem so fond of us, but then he warmed up to us after some cheesecake.

We then faithfully followed Rick Steve's walking tours around town.

First walk- Vienna's old center that included stops at the Opera and St. Stephen's, the Gothic cathedral at the center of town known for its 450-foot tower and colorful roof. Although there was a tour of the interior of St. Stephen's, we skimmed that one since Rick overestimated our level of interest.

It also took us to Albertinaplatz, with a really bleak monument to victims of war and violence entitled 'The Gates of Violence'-- the description was a downer!

Afterwards we strolled on Karntner Strasse and Graben, admiring the pretty buildings of varied architectural styles: Art Nouveau, Neoclassicism, Modernist and Postmodern.

We did not admire St. Peter's Church. Rick said it was "Vienna at its Baroque best," we thought it was tacky!

Before heading to see Hofburg Palace, we did make a brief pit stop at the Public WC's built underground in 1900 by a chemical company to prove their product got things clean- good marketing I'd say cause they were swanky.

We happened to stay slightly out of the center in what appeared to be close to the gay neighborhood. We were delighted since that also meant a lot of the good restaurants were nearby- in fact we never ate in the center. We did have a really tasty, although not healthy meal, it the most delightful garden thanks to the recommendation of a random bartender (we actually ended up at many yummy local restaurants thanks to random people in nice shops and bars).

We also picnicked since the produce in the Naschmarkt, an outdoor market created in 1898 when the city covered the Vienna River, looked delicious. (Dad- their tomatoes seemed to fare better than your crop).

We enjoyed our lunch in the gardens of the Schonbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Hapsburgs, with 1,441 rooms. Only 40 rooms are open to the public and we only saw about half of them since 1) I accidentally bought the wrong ticket for the shorter tour and 2) it was so crowded with huge tour groups we kept trying to get away from them (and failed when we just ran into another group ahead). Plus, Sofian wasn't the biggest fan of the palace- Denise claims he just doesn't like palaces since he wasn't fond of the ones in France either.

We decided to give it another try the following day with a visit to the Hofburg Palace's Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum.

The Sisi Museum was perhaps the worst laid out museum I have even been to, with NO AC and zillions of people. Despite Sisi (Empress Elizabeth, Franz Josef's wife) being Princess Diana wacky it was just too hot and crowded to enjoy.

Luckily things cleared up when we entered the Imperial Apartments which were really lovely. The private apartments and public meeting rooms that Franz Josef I used from 1857 to 1916 are on display and quite tasteful.

All that opulence certainly called for a glass of wine on Graben, the prettiest street. Sure, we broke a glass and annoyed the waiter by asking for the check as he was cleaning up the glass shards, but we enjoyed it. We later annoyed another waiter by ordering a cheeseburger and club sandwich instead of her Viennese recommendations ;-) (note: I have not had a burger since the ham version in Montenegro!)

In general we all enjoyed Vienna- the buildings and gardens are SO pretty, the city is spotless and it is really charming.

Sadly Denise and Sofian had to head back to London and I was back to the train station.

(BTW, if you are still interested in donating to the orphans in Nepal let me know- you can do it by PayPal since the other site is now closed).

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