Wednesday, October 23, 2013

RTW 2013 / Austria / Vienna Part 1

Despite our very early morning arrival in Frankfurt there were long queues for immigration and security. But we had plenty of time to make our Vienna connection so, after the formalities, enjoyed a good breakfast (the food on Lufthansa was pretty dire) at one of the airport restaurants.
Then it was a looooooong walk to our gate. This turned to be a feature of our trip and not only when connections were involved.
The flight to Vienna was only an hour but we had a long wait for my bag which is always a worry especially when the co driver's was one of the first out.
We had arranged a car to pick us up and we were whisked quickly to our hotel.
As expected our room not ready so we had to fill in 3 hours or so.
It was still unseasonally warm in Vienna so we walked through the local Spittelberg area which was only a few steps from the hotel. This revitalized Biedermeier district near the Museum Quarter has many restaurants, cafés and bars with small gardens, often slightly hidden in romantic courtyards. Here we found a cafe for coffee and cake. The co driver was not too impressed with Sacher Torte, a Viennese specialty, but there were better things to come in the following week.
After a bit of window shopping, we had lunch and our first taste of Austrian wine.
Gruener Veltliner is the main variety. Aromatic on the nose and fruity but dry palate.
But (a lot) more on Austrian wine later.
We finally collapsed into bed at 2pm and slept for 5 hours.

Then we were up to explore a bit more ending up at the Vienna film festival held in the Rathausplatz. Huge outdoor screen, international food and drink stalls. Cold beer was order of the day on a very warm evening. My long neglected German spluttered into action and there were no problems ordering.
Watched a band of older guys on the screen playing, what was to me, some sort of zydeco. They turned out to be Austrian and quite famous. Great music known officially as Alpine Rock.
Check out their videos on You Tube.
Then tiredness hit again and we headed 'home'.
But that didn't last long.
Both wide awake at 2am.
Gotta hate jet lag!
After breakfast, we hit the U-bahn and headed for Schoenbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburgs and built during the reign of Maria Theresa in the mid 18th century.
Lots of important cultural and political events have taken place here. Franz Joseph 1 'launched' World War 1 from his desk, a six year old Mozart played for Maria Theresa, Napoleon spent time there and John Kennedy extended a hand of conciliation to Khrushchev in 1961 in the Great Gallery.

We got off one stop past the normal one so we could walk back through the extensive gardens.
Only a few people around as it was early.
We self toured 40 of the 1440 rooms. Amazing opulence but this does tend to stir one's social conscience a little. 
When we finished, crowds of bus tours were thronging in. It pays to be early at Austria's biggest tourist attraction if you want to take things slowly and quietly.
Morning tea was at the palace cafe. Apple strudel and whipped cream for me, a chocolate concoction for the co driver all washed down with great coffee. Both excellent!

Then it was back onto the train and into the centre of town.
Walked down the famous shopping and pedestrian only Kärntner Straße to St. Stephen's Cathedral with its colorfully tiled roof and went up the spire. Great views over Vienna and to the Vienna woods and vineyards in the distance.


St. Stephen's was a Romanesque basilica (1210-1240) before Rudolf IV, the first Habsurg ruler born in Austria, commissioned extensive expansion in the Gothic style.
The church interior is said to be the world's most solemn. Can't argue with that despite the huge throng of noisy tourists passing through.
Found a tiny bar in a side street and had a couple of beers plus spicy sausage, senf and brotchen for lunch.

Back onto the train and to the station near our hotel for a visit to the Leopold Museum in the Museum Quarter.
They have a permanent Gustav Klimt exhibition there plus the world's largest collection of work by Egon Schiele.
There also was a moving exhibition of charcoal drawings of the Children of the Holocaust by Bockelmann as well as a collection of Austrian art "Between the Wars".

While the co driver has a thing for Klimt, we both began to be won over by Schiele. Much of his work is dark but the town/village scenes are fascinating both for their simplicity and detail. It's always good to find a new 'favourite'.
The Leopold is a 'must see' on any art tour of Vienna.
Suddenly, late in the afternoon, jet lag returned and we headed to our room for a shower, sleep and revival.
Then out locally into the Spittelberg area for dinner. Found a good restaurant for a schnitzel and beer.
Then more sleep.

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