Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Waltz through Vienna



May 7th - May 20th. It is true, Vienna is a "Ye Olde" city filled with grand architecture, world-class music, ornate horse drawn carriages and decadent chocolate cake, but we found a Vienna that was modern and vibrant as well. For example...

Katarina Wurst, the winner of Eurovision 2014 is Austrian
Our apartment was quirky, but very nice. It was about a twenty minute walk from the city center - just far enough to feel like we lived in a neighborhood. And it was a great part of town with lots of bars, vintage shops, galleries and pocket parks. There was even a billiard hall where Michael watched parts of the Vienna Snooker Open. Here is the link to our apartment. https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/2023633

Since there were no football matches to attend Michael had to add some variety to his sporting experiences
In Disneyland there are strict rules about how costumed characters comport themselves while interacting with the public. Not so in this Mozart saturated city. I had to laugh at the many bedraggled white wigged young men and women pitching concerts, tours, and other Viennese tourist offerings. Yes the men were dressed in brocade jackets, ruffled shirts and velvet breeches, and the ladies wore dresses with revealing bodices, and flouncing skirts - but they also wore Ray Bans, Nikes, smoked like chimneys and were constantly checking their cellphones. The horse drawn carriage drivers were even worse!

Correct attire
Incorrect attire
We took a walking tour on the Friday and enjoyed some of the hidden alleyways and inside courtyards not always seen on your own, and of course the vast history of this city was shared as much as it could be in two hours. We felt there was so much more to learn, we took a second tour the next day from a different company.

A city filled with statues and buildings to rival Rome
A delightful courtyard that led to Hayden's home
On our first tour we found out about a free outdoor concert to be held that night on the grounds of City Hall. It was the kick off to the Summer long series that would take place on the same stage. It turned out to be a spectacular show featuring choirs from around Europe. The facade of the building changed colors to the music and big screens shared the action.

The venue was a short walk from home so we packed a picnic and headed out. it started to rain just as we arrived - but a clever sponsor was passing out free ponchos so we joined hundreds of others that became a sea of advertising for the local bank. We made friends with a couple of delightful landscape architecture students who had commandeered a park bench. If you are willing to share a picnic, you can always get people to 'scootch' over.
An impressive building of many colors!
Our new friends with great seats.
We woke up to a sunny Saturday morning and a flea market just outside our door that stretched for several blocks. A fine start to the day. We had a great wander through the stalls full of antiques, books, records, dishes, and memorabilia - knowing you can't really add anything to our luggage makes it more fun, in a somewhat tortured way.

I did however score my Mother's Day gift. For years I have collected Steiff animals and several vendors had boxes filled with them. Not the pristine collectors items that cost hundreds of dollars, but the kind of furry friends that have enjoyed some rough play and tea parties over their lifetime. It was like being at the animal shelter and wanting to take all the kittens home, but alas I could only choose one. The winner was a Wiener as a tribute to Lola who spent almost ten years of her life at Tip Top.

I wanted them all!
The winner!
Church the next day at St. Augustin - one of the oldest and most important churches in Vienna, was not only impressive for the elaborate service, but also for a full orchestra and choir performing Mozart and Haydn classics. It was inspiring on several levels.

It was pouring rain when we came out so we sprinted for home for a nice day of resting, reading, planning, and watching Amadeus for the third time to get us in the Viennese spirit.

During our wanderings we kept seeing promotional materials for an event called Lange Nacht Der Kirchen. After seeing it so prominently advertised we had to find out what it was. We discovered it was a one night event translated to Long Night of Churches that took place all over Vienna and surrounding cities on May 23rd. The basic premise was any church could open its door that evening and offer cultural events. Anything from musical performances, to plays, to crypt tours, poetry readings, political discussions and beyond. Sort of an Open House situation where anyone interested can visit as many churches as they like and enjoy a free evening out. 

One of many churches promoting The Long Night of Churches
We were intrigued enough to meet with the event organizers to learn more about it. The activities are chosen by the church and can be just about anything they want to showcase. The evening starts around 6:00 and in some cases goes until midnight. Without going into more detail - Michael actually flew back to Vienna from Paris to experience the event first hand with an eye towards creating something similar in the Northwest.

Other highlights; a Mozart concert performed in period costume at the majestic opera house (wigs firmly in place this time), Michael's tour of the United Nations Campus, my day at the Albertina museum, a delicious a Wienersnitchel dinner, reading in the palace rose garden and an enjoyable afternoon scouting out the extensive outdoor food market.

Sitting in the same hall where Mozart performed was a thrill
Michael took a tour of the United Nations campus in Vienna
My Vienna experience appears to have had an animal theme
Day Trip: We took an hour train ride to Bratislava, Slovakia. Slovakia was originally part of Czechoslovakia, which split in two in the early 1990's after the wall came down and the country gained it's independence. This historic city, even though it is the capital, didn't really prosper. It was a rainy, Sunday afternoon when we visited and most shops were closed and the streets deserted - that didn't help dispel the feeling that Bratislava sits under a dark cloud. Our walking tour was interesting as always, and we learned more about the checkered history of this city - and how Prague gets all the glory (for several things that actually happened in Bratislava) and how they are constantly confused with Slovenia. We heard the other side of that story in Ljubljana. The communists did not do the city any favors as far as architecture goes, and tore down much of the Medieval old town to make way for housing blocks and widened roads so the beautiful parts of the city seemed few and far between. Unlike Sarajevo - Bratislava just didn't feel like it was going to get much better any time soon.

This gloomy sign summed up the city's atmosphere
An ancient tram running through the center
Who doesn't love a guy crawling out of a manhole? One of the best public art pieces I've seen anywhere.

We left Vienna after almost two weeks of immersion in Austro-Hungarian history, modern culture and excellent food! We are heading Paris to be with Mary for the arrival of baby number three. We will be there for 17 days and we can't wait!

See you there.

Michael and Debbie
Senior Nomads

p.s. This post is a little out of order. See the previous post for details on baby Jacques bumpy ride into this world!



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