Dateline: Vienna, Austria –
The ship spent both last night and tonight tied up to the Danube docks so we could all have a full day to explore Vienna. I have been here before and am well aware that it takes a lot more than a day to see a city of some three million people and centuries of history. Fortunately, I have been here before so there was plenty of been there, done that in my planning out my day and I didn’t try to squeeze everything in. I think what I need to do with some of my favorite cities such as Vienna and Barcelona and London, is just get a round trip ticket and a hotel room for ten days or so and just immerse myself. I was looking at the first week of November for a vacation, but I just got a call from an attorney and they’ve scheduled a trial I need to testify at right in the middle of that week. They’ve already switched dates and canceled on me a couple of times so I fully expect to do that again. I’ll schedule the week off, perhaps, and make it a staycation or a jaunt to Chicago or NYC instead.
After breakfast, on the bus for a driving tour of central Vienna, mainly involving the famous Ringstrasse with all the gorgeous 19th century buildings. Franz Joseph may not have been the wisest of rulers, but he knew how to let his city planners and architects transform medieval Vienna into a city of wide boulevards, imposing public buildings and art nouveau apartment houses. The bus ended up in the southwest end of the city at Maria Theresa’s summer palace, Schonbrun, which is the Austrian answer to Versailles. Last time I was here, I remember going to Schonbrun, the famous yellow color of the palace, the baroque gardens, but nothing of the palace interior. Maybe I didn’t go in. It’s been 35 years. Anyway, did the interior tour this time through the state apartments, mainly laid out by Maria Theresa but redecorated and rejiggered a few times by her successors. Most of imperial Vienna seems to have gotten stuck in the 1870s and 1880s when the Emperess Elizabeth, or Sisi as she was known, reigned supreme. She seems to have head the last word on decor and fashion but I’m not always certain as to her taste.
The bus brought us back in to central Vienna and dropped us at the art museum and basically said you have until 8 am tomorrow – have fun. I went looking for an opera or theater production to go to but everything seems to be on summer hiatus as they all prepare for the Salzburg festival. So, I went to the art museums (which contains one of my favorite works of visual art – Vermeer’s The Art of Painting) as well as most of the Breugels you’ve ever heard of. It runs high to Reubens, who is not my favorite, but there are a couple of good Caravaggios to make up for it. I skipped the Natural History Museum. Been there. And headed for the Hofburg instead and took a look at the crown jewels (included with my art museum ticket). I did not tour Sisi’s apartments. I do remember those from my last trip and thought their Victorian excesses need not be seen more than once in a lifetime.
Then it was down through the main shopping district for some window shopping. I went into Armani and Versace – I always do, but could find nothing worth the exorbitant price tags. I ended up at the cathedral, yet another huge gothic edifice. The last time I was in Vienna, I was here over a Sunday so I went to mass at the cathedral. I figured I should see one in action. I went to the traditional Latin service rather than the German (as thanks to four years of high school Latin, I understand it rather better than my two quarters of college German lets me understand it). It was magnificent with the pomp and pageantry and the organ and a full symphony orchestra playing the musical passages. If you’re ever in a European cathedral town on a Sunday, by all means go.
After dinner in a cafe and some people watching, I struck out for the Prater and did a couple of things I haven’t done in decades, such as walking down the midway eating cotton candy. I also went on a couple of rides including a spook house. They’ve become much more technologically advanced since my youth with some very good mechanical and make up effects but the point is still to give girl teens an excuse to scream and cling on to their dates when things go ‘Boo’. It happens in Austria as well as the US.
Then back to the ship. Pushing 20,000 steps today so I’m tired and going to bed early. We leave for Bratislava in the morning.