A cultural day

Trip Start Mar 29, 2006
Trip End Feb 28, 2007

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

SATURDAY, 21st October
One of the best breakfasts. Cereals, sausages, eggs, beans and soft breads. And the dining room much like all the Ibis eateries was on the ground floor and not swanky.  [What a terrible word but it is in the Thesaurus]
We picked up the day bag, walked up the street, bought a day ticket, caught the underground, U1 and emerged into Stephans plaza. The morning was crisp but not cold as we strolled around the outside of the cathedral with its strange zigzag mosaic roof and poked our head into the dark interior. It was surprisingly dirty on the outside as were many of the imposing buildings in Vienna. Some had been cleaned but many retained that sooty look I used to associate with London. Gone was the decorative look of southern Germany and Austria. These city buildings were very austere. Huge square blocks of sandstone or concrete laid bricklike and encompassing acres sometimes with one building.
Strangely we picked a Picasso exhibition for our first foray into Viennese culture. As we walked in the general direction of the Imperial palaces we were sidetracked into entering the Albertina in which there was an exhibition of Picasso works. I had never been a fan of his artwork but felt that maybe I could see something different if there were walls and walls of his paintings. But no. To my mind (and Anne's ) they were the work of a child. A child obsessed with naked women seen through the eyes of a Spaniard with blurred vision! [I suppose it makes a change from all those Italians, Dutch and English who thrust naked men upon us to display their spiritual needs in their paintings and tapestries.]
Out and on to the palace or Hofburg which was really a conglomeration of regal buildings housing a library, a chapel, a museum or two and the royal apartments. But the lack of signage meant that we wandered around in circles or ovals for a while before we found our bearings. We entered the library first where we were directed around the corner to the chapel entrance. We were looking for the place where the boy's choir would be singing the next day, Sunday. Bingo! We found a small door which had times of service but little else. We will try to be at that door at 9 am tomorrow.
The museum of royal antiquities and their apartments was just across the way so after parting with several Euros we followed the trail through the dining tableware exhibits of the emperors of Austria. It was almost as extensive as that of the Queen's collection at Buck House. Cabinets full of porcelain, silverware, gold and gems plus a fully laid dining table for 50 guests. The apartments were on an upper level...large furnished rooms of timbers and tapestries. Further on was a special display devoted to Queen Sisi...most beloved of the Austrian queens. It appeared to be an excellent exhibit of her life but there was not a text in English to help us or any of the many Americans who were passing through. Shame really.
Throughout the town there were spruikers dressed in medieval attire trying to sell tickets to concerts that night or any other night. We were interested but did not want to buy off the street. After exiting the museum and treating ourselves to hot drinks in the square we set off to find the Palais Auersberg where a Mozart concert was to be performed. It was a fair walk and when we got there we discovered from the ticket seller that that night it was to be held at the Borse Palais, the other side of town. We bought tickets, however, and continued on our cultural discovery tour.
The Kunsthistorisches museum was next. I particularly wanted to see the original of Breughel's Tower of Babel of which a print hangs in my bedroom at home and which I had learned was hanging in this art gallery. Each room in the Kunsthistorisches contained the works of but one artist. Painters that I had only read about such as Holbein, Rubens, Titian, Van Dyke and many others. Not only was my painting there but also those wonderful depictions of children's games and village life with all those, oh, so ugly characters.
Enough of this culture we headed for the shopping street and I do mean street. There was only one shopping street, the Karntner Strasse, all the other streets were taken up with public buildings or residences. We were very tempted to buy some Hundertwasser jewellery for Anne but not when we saw the price. Anne did buy some baby things for...I forget who...and I searched in vain for any CD shops.
We had 3 hours to waste before the concert so spent one of them in the Nordsee eating fish and chips and another in McDonalds eating ice cream and watching two Japanese girls play with their food. They nibbled at their cheeseburgers as if they were hot potatoes. It took about 45 minutes for this one little lady to consume her burger...picking it up, having a nibble, putting it down, giggling to her friend and picking it up again for another nibble. BUT at the same time or I should say in between all the putting down and picking up she was spooning some of her ice cream into her delicate mouth. Of course. Cheeseburger and ice cream. I must try that one.
With still plenty of time we walked up to the ring road and caught a tram (with our day ticket) to the theatre. The place was deserted so we strolled around the back to find a door open. If we had been late there was no way we would have known where to go unless we saw a crowd, Naturally the show was on the top floor. [I mention this because most shows or exhibitions we attended were on an upper floor.] We had to book in with a guy at a desk set up outside the auditorium and after 20 minutes or so they let us in. Palace it may have been but this auditorium looked more like a school assembly hall but for the ceiling which was very decorative. We were seated in folding chairs at the back and up until 5 minutes before the start of the show the back rows were the only ones occupied. Then came the rush. A crowd of Americans, disgorged from coaches, arrived to take up all the front seats after having taken the 'dinner and show' option and were a little late.
The concert was excellent. Three ladies on violins, two men on clarinet and flute, a lady on piano and a man on cello led by a flamboyant chap on violin who took centre stage most of the time in the first half. They played some familiar Mozart pieces to start with and were then joined by a lady soprano and a male baritone who took turns to offend my ears. The ensemble must have performed many times together before because they needed no leading...just a nod from the aforementioned violinist. [I have often remarked that I could see no need for a conductor on a concert platform and can never understand the adulation given him...or her.] To add to our entertainment package there was a young man in tights and a young lady in tutu who amused us with their versions of some classical ballet duets and some familiar Strauss waltzes.
After the interval as the concertgoers were reseating themselves an argument broke out between a young man and an older gent over a seat in the middle of the theatre. Rather than settle it amicably they raised their voices in anger and in that small auditorium they were heard by all. Some cheered them on whilst others booed. In the end the older, noisier man won. Even the lead violinist joined in with pithy remarks about their interruption of the proceedings.
Anne tells me that  the younger man involved in the fracas had had a terrible row with his female companion before they entered the theatre concerning the contents of a phone call. After the half time row and he had been re-seated, some ten minutes later he got up and walked out. He returned in about half an hour but was not happy. (This was more entertaining than the concert...not true really.) At the end of the performance she stormed off without him. All of which shows how much attention Anne was paying to the concert! How many other untold dramas are there in this royal city of Vienna?
A most enjoyable evening. A very talented team of musicians but I felt sorry for the young dancers trying to do their thing on that small dais.
We caught the tram to the U1 underground station at Schwedenplatz, thence the train to our hotel and collapsed.
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