Hopping Over To Vienna For More Family Time!

Trip Start Oct 21, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Christoph & Taryn's apartment!

Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Sunday, December 13, 2009

12.12.09/12.13.09             Hopping Over To Vienna, Austria, For More Family Time!

Saturday, 12.12.09:

Yesterday we decided to take a day trip to Vienna, Austria, which is only an hour away from Bratislava by train!  We've all been there before, but it’s been years for Murray and me (1995 and 2001, respectively), and we all thought it would be a fun excursion together.  So, we jumped on the 10:00am train to Vienna, managing to find four seats together (the train was crowded – it seems that everyone else had the same idea for a day trip yesterday as we did!).

Vienna, Austria, is a city of nearly two million people (versus Bratislava’s 430,000).  It is filled with impressive architecture, world-renowned museums, world-renowned musical traditions, and such Viennese institutions such as coffee houses and wine taverns.  When we got to Vienna, it was hard not to notice the very different vibe it had compared to Bratislava (neither vibe being better than the other).  Another thing we noticed about Vienna right away was how FREEZING cold it was (even colder than Bratislava).  Murray was the only one who remembered to bring a hat along, so C&T and I had cold ears all morning. 

Anyway, from Vienna’s main train station, we jumped on a very modern tram to the Innere Stadt, or Old City.  Our first stop was the neo-Gothic Rathaus, Vienna’s city hall, in front of which are set up the most famous of Vienna’s Christmas markets (Weiner Christkindlmarkts). We spent several hours looking through the Rathaus and these busy markets (we never get sick of those – at least, I don’t!), which were much bigger, busier, and more diverse than the markets we’d previously been to in Prague and Bratislava.  If I remember correctly, here are the market treats that our group ate its way through for lunch: bratwursts with mustard and bread; punsch; hot, spiced gluhwein; pumpkin spice cake; apple strudel; cheese sausages with mustard in buns; kartofelpuffers (hot baked slices of potato); a huge chocolate pretzel with sprinkles; and (of course) beer.  Yumm-o.

It was mid-afternoon before we left the Christmas markets; we walked down the street to the Votiv Cathedral.  While it wasn’t far away, it was a very cold, very windy walk – so we ducked into a local cafe for hot drinks and a warm up before crossing the street to tour the cathedral. 

The Votiv (or Votive) Church (aka, Votivkirche zum Göttlichen Heiland!) was consecrated in 1879 and is touted as the one of the most important neo-Gothic religious architectural sites in the world.  It has undergone extensive renovations after being badly damaged during World War II.

The origin of the church has an unusual history – derived from a knife attack on Emperor Franz Joseph by a Hungarian nationalist!  Apparently, the emperor was taking a stroll with one of his officers when he was struck from behind with a knife straight at his neck.  Since the emperor almost always wore a uniform, which had a sturdy, high collar that almost completely enclosed his neck, this collar saved his life! 

After this attempted murder of the emperor in February 1853, Franz Joseph’s brother, Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph (the later emperor of Mexico!), called upon the Viennese community for donations for a new church to be built on the site of the attack.  The church was to be a "votive" offering for the rescue of Franz Joseph, and “a monument of patriotism and of devotion of the people to the Imperial House”.  Huh.

When we got inside the church, we were dismayed to find out that it was colder inside the church than it was outside (no joke!).  Needless to say, we didn’t linger inside!  We did, however, see the impressive main altar, which contains a glowing, gilded retable and marble decorated with panels of inlaid glass mosaic.  The baldachin covering the main altar is supported by four massive red granite columns that open up into four pointed arches, crowned with gables and flanked by pinnacles with statues of saints in their niches.  Both the altar and the baldachin are quite impressive!

After the Votivkirche, we hopped back on the Metro for a few stops and then took a tram to the neighborhood of Spittelberg to walk through the Christmas markets there.  Taryn had read that these were Vienna’s most interesting Christmas markets – a lot less commercial and a lot more “neighborhoody” – which was exactly what we found when we got there.  As we walked through these neat markets, which were lined up and down several small side streets, we enjoyed hot cider and more gluhwein; more beer; a hot, ginger-spiced waffle with Nutella and cream; and hot potato latkes with garlic butter!  Also, Taryn, Christoph, and I – unable to tolerate cold ears any longer, and finding a sale box at one of the market stalls – all bought new Nepalese woolen hats.  Hooray for warm ears!

After Spittelberg, we walked back to the Metro and took it to Stephansplatz (St. Stephen’s Square) to see one of Vienna’s prime landmarks, Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral).  This 13th century Gothic church is considered an architectural masterpiece.  Its striking latticework spires rise high above Vienna.  Inside, Stephansdom’s interior walls and pillars are decorated with fine statutes, and it has a stone pulpit that is particularly striking.  (It also was pretty busy inside Stephansdom, perhaps because this cathedral was warmer inside than the plummeting temperature outside!) 

After Stephansdom, we walked a little down Karntner Strasse, the famous pedestrian-only thoroughfare that leads to Stephansdom.  Changing courses, we then walked to a microbrewery/pub that Taryn knew of, called the “1516 Brewery,” for a late dinner.  (En route there, we passed Mozarthous Vienna – the house where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born!)  At the brewery, we enjoyed our own private dining room, an Aussie waitress, and an awesome meal with fine brews (ok, ok – my brew was of the “still water variety” – but everyone else seemed to enjoy their “hoppy” brews!).

From dinner, we made our way back to Vienna’s train station and jumped on a late train back to Bratislava (the train was packed!).  We got back to Bratislava and we were all in bed by 10:00pm!  Another fun day with family.

Sunday, 12.13.09:

We woke up today to a very snowy Bratislava!  In the morning, we went to church services at the church where Taryn is interning for the year – Mmaly Kostol, or “The Little Church.”  It was a nice service a fun children’s program, although we were sad that we didn’t get to hear Taryn preach today (she’s not scheduled to preach again until next Sunday, but that’s ok – we’ve heard her preach before and she’s good!  As a PK, I am quite picky about my sermons…).  After church, we went across the street to the Backpackers’ Hostel for coffee hour (where it’s held, due to space limitations in “The Little Church”).  It was great to meet Taryn’s supervisor and his wife, as well as other people from Taryn and Christoph’s congregation.

From church, we went back to C&T’s for as lunch of leftovers (hooray!  Murray and I have missed leftovers!) – and after lunch, we all made a Skype call to my mom and dad (plus our little dog, Dexter!) back in Fargo, who were up early before their Sunday services to talk to us!  After the call, three of us took an afternoon nap while Murray walked to and visited the Bratislava Castle (Hrad) overlooking the city (he reported back to me that he had a “good visit” there).

Tonight, we all decided to go to a movie, “2012” (we knew it would be a predictable disaster flick, but it was well done – albeit long!).  When we got back home, we made spaghetti with a yummy vegetable sauce and garlic bread for dinner (again, it is so nice to be in a home environment, cooking and eating a homemade meal).  We were all in bed by 11pm. 

Murray and I leave Bratislava – and Taryn and Christoph – tomorrow, and I will be so sad to go.  This time with family has been so very special, and such a necessary “break” in the midst of all our traveling.

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Roxie Carlton on

Of course, the man with the bald head remembered his hat! My husband looks a bit like Murray, shaved head with goatee, and he wouldn't forget his cap either! Made me laugh! :-)

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