A Palace and a Sitting Waltz

Trip Start Jul 08, 2013
Trip End Aug 06, 2013

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Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Monday, July 29, 2013

Palace Time!

We spent the entire day at the Schoenberg palace, playground summer camp for generations of Habsbergs. Erin had been looking forward to this visit since reading about its comparison to Versaille.

I met Erin at the bistro down the block, an art deco gem from the turn of the century, where newspapers are left out for lingering customers and the proprietress smokes under an outside umbrella until you go ask her for a cheese and ham plate. No strudel after 10 AM. Dusty mirrors. Old photographs. Ornate wood accents around the original tables and booths. I found Erin enjoying her cutest tea service, pinkies up!

The palace is adorned with approximately 10 zillion tons of gold leaf, more or less. Curly cues and flowers. Gold gold gold. My teeth hurt after visiting two rooms. There are noble family portraits in each tall-ceilinged chamber.

Fun fact: The only woman ruler from the Habsburg dynasty was Marie Theresa, wife of Francis I and mother of Marie Antoinette,and 16 others. Of those who survived childhood, she only really liked the oldest, whom she let marry for love. The others were traded and/or sacrificed for power and property.

We were in a rush to stay ahead of the giant tour groups, one Chinese, one German, who would enter rooms like tidal waves of pushing. There was not air conditioning in the palace, but there were fans, by which and we lingered for embarrassingly long pauses. Sorry Chinese and Germans, we were here first.

Fun Fact: Sisi, anorexic wife of Franz Josef I and aunt to Franz Ferdinand (not the band), was Vienna's Marilyn Monroe. She was a renowned beauty with floor-length hair and  a free spirit. Sisi wasn't a fan of eating, her husband, or courtly life, so she chose to travel instead. I don't blame her for taking advantage of her status and traveling the world; she was married off at 15, for crying out loud!  Poor Sisi. She didn't have any portraits made after she started aging, and would carry around a fan to shield her face, protecting the populace from the horror of her withering youth. Sisi really hit her fame after dying, when her image began appearing on any merch you can imagine, from mugs to jewelry to Sisi dolls. A movie trilogy was made about her life, starring a young and beautiful Austrian actress.

Remind me to buy a veil when I get back.

My favorite room was a natural wood, not painted white and gold. The walls were decorated with inlaid oriental prints. There was a fan.

Outside and away from the crowds, we snacked in a shady lane of the expansive garden. Marie Theresa had the gardens decorated with elaborate fountains and fake Roman ruins that gave me the heebie jeebies. This "tasteful" "Roman" replica included "broken" columns and concrete "plants" "growing out of" the "ruins". Interesting how we aren't the first generation to favor the "distressed" look.  How many Dwell-featured, peeling-wood farm dining tables do we need at a Sunday brunch in Connecticut? 

At sunset we had a delicious Radler (Austrian drink with beer and lemonade!!) in a restaurant on the hill, overlooking the palace and gardens below. Erin posed like Evita; don't cry for her Austria. We saw an exquisite woman sitting on the wall, posing for a picture. I said "Beautiful picture!", to which her Austrian boyfriend replied, "Not yet." So literal. So dry.

I was not smart enough to gauge the effect of my Radler and was in dire need of restroom relief by the time we crossed the gardens back to the metro. On the train, the announcement of every stop increased the pressure building in my bladder. We got off the train at the Opera stop, because I couldn't stand it any longer. I raced through the metro station, in a pee panic, passing one closed WC after another. I swear I started to weep from frustration and bursting when I finally spotted a WC way down at the end of the station. Crossing my legs, I fumbled through my bag for some change, swearing and sweating. My god! There was nightmare Viennese waltz music coming from inside!

I had stumbled upon the Opera Toilet! I'm not kidding. Opera Toilet, Vienna?! The walls were decorated with painted images of the inside of an opera house. Recorded waltz music was accompanied by percussive tinkles, plops and flushes. From now on, the Viennese Waltz will have a Pavlovian effect on my insides.

Afterward, we were treated to a mediocre dinner outside on a busy Vienna street, served by a woman with a short skirt and severe case of bit** face. We were almost too hungry to care, but not too hungry to make fun. :()

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