Hofburg Wanderings

Trip Start Jan 27, 2009
Trip End May 15, 2009

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Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Friday, January 30, 2009

Gruss Got, and welcome to my third entry!
This morning I sampled the hotel's €5 buffet breakfast, and it wasn't bad at all! One roll with honey, brown bread with nutella, muesli with yoghurt, apply juice and coffee later I was quite satisfied, and figured that today I'd like to visit the Hofburg complex, also known as the former emperor's residence. It was a really easy place to get to, as the underground train just down the road goes right there in ten minutes. So the first thing I had to negotiate was this train system; well it's quite easy really. You buy a ticket either at a machine or at a ticket desk, hop on, go where you want, and hop off. You don't need to worry about validating (or so I thought), jumping through hoops, and waiting millions of minutes, because the trains run every 5 - 10 mins. The system is all very honest, too. Now I got a bit confused, and bought a ticket which wasn't validated. This means I should have gone to the machine before entering the platform and validated, but I didn't understand and went straight through thinking the ticket was enough. Luckily there wasn't any checking done, because there is a no-excuses policy when it comes to checking tickets (due to the very honest nature of the system, I guess) and I can't afford any fines, thank you very much. However I was happy to see a newspaper stand at the entrance from which people were picking up free, then at the end of their journey placing them back in a stand for others to read, also there were magazines on hooks in the train so you could pull it off, have a read, then put it back for someone else! All quite thoughtful and honest, really.
Because this train went underground, I got no scenery shots, but that's okay I made up for it after getting off! I went straight to Michaelerplatz, a most beautiful entryway to Hofburg. I went through to see 'In der Burg' ("inside the fortress") containing a large statue of Franz I, whoever that is. This was also where I discovered that public toilets aren't free in Austria, and there's a lady there with a key that'll only let you in if you give her fifty cents. It wasn't so surprising, we encountered toilets in Japan which also charged you, however having a lady to collect the money was a bit of a shock! Imagine if people ask what your job is, "oh I collect money from ppl to use the loo then I clean it up afterwards. Very rewarding". I took a photo afterwards, as she had moved from inside to outside for a little while - I hope it wasn't because of the smell I left...

Well from here I moseyed over to Heldenplatz, "Heroes Square". It was stunningly beautiful, all covered in snow and whatnot. From what I have read it was planned to be the centre of a majestic imperial forum, but the monarchy was becoming obsolete so the buildings around it weren't completed. There's two statues, which look pretty much the same, of Prince Eugene and Archduke Charles, whoever they are, atop magnificent horses looking pretty splendid, as well as a memorial gate to a victory over Napoleon (haha that would've taken a while - the victory that is) and "the Unknown Soldier" (don't know the story there). This park was also the place that Hitler announced Austria's incorporation into the German Reich, and is used for other large public gatherings.
I kept wandering aimlessly, and soon found myself in a place which I had not realised was so close to Hofburg; the Museum Quarter. Well, I thought, that's a trip for a different day - so I quickly removed myself (after some photos of course) and went round to a little park the name of which I've forgotten (no, I haven't! It was burg-garten). It was beside a butterfly house, which was so very tempting as I figured it'd have to be nice and warm in there! But no, I didn't have a lot of cash and so I avoided the warm looking place. I did, however, find a statue of Mozart which I think Dad might appreciate ;)

I kept walking and was not at all surprised to find the state opera building, followed by expensive looking hotels and a shopping district. A few things I recognised, such as Subway, Burger King, McDonald's and Starbucks were around, so after (finally) finding an ATM I popped into Starbucks for a cup of hot, steaming coffee. It was delicious and HUGE and expensive and a very pleasant break from being snowed on!!
After stopping to buy some gloves, I decided to go back to hofburg and go inside to take a look, because there are some paintings of Empress Elizabeth that I really wanted to see. Instead I got side tracked by a fantastic art gallery called Albertina! It was €7 to get in on my student card (I keep wincing when I think of the exchange rate... stupid aussie dollar) and it was worth every cent. There were sections of Impressionist and Expressionist, Abstract and Modern... of course in every section, there was a section of wall dedicated to explaining exactly what "Impressionist" (etc) was meant to mean, and who had started it. The whole time here I was thinking of my artistically inclined friends, thinking 'ooh, they'd love this' or 'hmm, they could explain this to me'... But in the end, I'm really glad I was alone. It let me form my own interpretations, and go at a pace that suited me. And then when there were paintings that touched me, I could sit down and just absorb for a while without worrying. There was a particular painting which touched me in a way I didn't want to absorb, of a very young looking pregnant woman dressed in black. After reading about the artist, a woman whose son died in the Second World War, I thought, no wonder she was good at putting sadness into 2 dimensions. I think her name was Kathe Kollwitz but I can't really remember.

Anyway following my meanderings through these exhibitions, I checked out the State Rooms and WOW! I would love to live in a place like that. There were very high ceilings with real diamond chandeliers, golden candelabras, heavy curtains, and beautiful rugs to say the least. I really wish I could have taken photos, it was breathtakingly gorgeous! Somewhere in here I found an old Australian couple by eavesdropping, but despite my urge to talk to someone who understands me I left them alone. They seemed pretty engrossed in the surroundings, too!
I then spent a fair bit at the Albertina shop. I bought some souveniry things of course, but also a new bag for me. Why? Well reason number one is the awesome bat on the front! Reason number two is because the bag I had didn't close properly, and it never occurred to me previously that snow might get in there. Which is did. My poor guidebook is a little damp...
The other thing to mention about awesome Albertina was the toilets. They were superb (and didn't cost me 50 cents... tch)! Marble floors, thick wooden doors / walls, brass taps, classical music playing! It was a lovely toilet to visit.
So after Albertina I was pretty damn happy with myself however my legs and tummy were less impressed. I've been having some troubles with digesting food, and I thought it might just be because the foods I've eaten the last few days have been so different to what I normally eat that I was getting a little "Bali belly". This, and my sudden desire to spend less money, led me to my worst decision of the day - Burger King. I figured it'd be like HJs at home, but it ISN'T! It tasted really terrible, and there was a language barrier with the serving lady (all I wanted was a bloody bottle of water instead of coke why was it so difficult? WASSER, LADY!), and afterwards I just felt ill. Never again, Burger King... Never again.   Although at least they had a pretty ceiling.

At this point, I realised I was pretty dehydrated (just cos its cold doesn't mean you don't drink) as I got shaky and headachy. I drank my hard earned water from Burger King, and thought that perhaps it was time to head back to the hotel, for some free water and to get off my very tired feet. As I got back to the train station, I worked out that I'd done a good 2.5 km and spent at least $AU70 and thought well, today was certainly worth it! :D
There were of course a few lessons I learnt, today. I'll list them, so that if I forget tomorrow I can re-read this and go "ah-ha!"
  1) wear thermal leggings (I've discovered that my thighs are sensitive to cold, and have broken out in some nasty 'Cold urticaria')
2) snow is easy to walk on, unless others have walked on it first in which case you fall on your arse
3) don't eat Austrian junkfood. Especially Burger King.
4) despite it being cold, you still need water
5) take water with you because IT'S HARD TO FRICKEN BUY
6) it's pronounced "dank - eh - shern" not "dunk - ah - shawn" like I was saying
And 7) these people don't know what deodorant is..... seriously the BO is so bad! :(
That's enough for now. I'm not feeling particularly hungry after that Burger King, so I think I might just quietly read in my room for tonight.

Auf wiedersehn, cyas later! xoxox
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