The Sights in Vienna

Trip Start May 07, 2012
Trip End May 16, 2012

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Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We started off the day with a walking tour of the central district of Vienna.  Our hotel was really convenient for the walk, and we started off here.  Our tour guide spoke great English, which I suppose I should have expected, but it was nice to be able to understand her. On the same block as our hotel was the site of a building where Beethoven lived for a time.  It sounds impressive, until one realizes that he lived in about 50 different places in Vienna.  He wintered in town but lived during the summers out in the country. Still, the mural in the picture is neat. At one point in history, the street that our hotel is on was a river or canal, hence the really cool bridge just north of the hotel.  It is certainly tall enough for a small boat to travel through.

Our walk to the city center was more of the same as yesterday. Block after block of incredible architecture and sculpture. It is amazing that people actually live here and see this on a day to day basis. I still haven't gotten used to it. Our tour company escort Johann asked me what I thought of all of it.  My only response is that the United States seems suddenly very young compared to what I'm seeing.

We started the tour proper downtown with a stop at the Imperial Palace. We visited the summer palace Schoenbrunn on our first day here. This is just as impressive.  You can see it for blocks before you actually get to it. There is gold gilding everywhere. The Hapsburg dynasty ruled this country for over 600 years, and the architecture and sculptures constantly refer to their greatness. As the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, there are sculptures everywhere of them in Roman garb, so as to link themselves with the ancient rulers. The palace was built in various phases, with the first phase started in the 14th century and the last phase finished just before the Hapsburg's abdicated after World War I. In front of the palace is an excavation of some ancient walls when the Romans used Vienna as their front lines of defense against the German tribes during the first centuries AD. They discovered them when digging for the subway lines now running through Vienna. Just next to the palace is the building that a young Joseph Haydn lived in while scraping together a living and teaching himself composition
from Fux's "Gradus."

We traveled from the Imperial Palace to the Stephansdom.  The cathedral looms large in music history, and it was really neat to see it in person.  We then toured a Mozart museum that was set up in one of his apartments.  Lunch at a street cafe with good friends, and then to Klosterneuberg for our first formal concert.  The building is gorgeous (as you can tell from the pictures).  Anton Bruckner worked here as an organist for a time, and it was quite special to sing a set of his motets in that space.  The reverb had to be a good 5 seconds.  Those pieces were meant to be sung in that kind of acoustic.  I knew that the performance was good when our Austrian audience gave us an extended applause for the Bruckner pieces. 

After the performance we had dinner with our host choir, Chor Weidling.  It was my first time having schnitzel.  Dinner was great and the company was fantastic.  We sang Mozart's "Ave verum" together and an ad hoc version of "Ride the Chariot." It was a real cultural exchange, even though our German was rough and their English was as well.  The quote of the night was after a less than stellar performance by Chor Weidling, their director Helmut Kunzel and Dr. Burleson looked at each other and said, in unison, "too much wine."  It became a catch phrase for the rest of the trip.

At the end of the day, we felt that we had squeezed two days of activities into one.  Tired and content, we headed back to the hotel.

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