Mozart and Company

Trip Start Jun 09, 2010
Trip End Dec 31, 2015

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Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Monday, June 14, 2010

Well, as always, I'm simply amazed by the city of Vienna. This is my 4th time to visit the beautiful Austrian capital, and I always forget how much I enjoy myself here.  We ended up being very lucky with the weather.  The forecast called for rain and thunderstorms with highs in the 60s, but we ended up with beautiful blue skies and low 80s.  Couldn’t have been better.  We’ll see how the weather ends up for the rest of the trip.  Forecasts are rainy and cold the whole way, but maybe they’re as bad here as in Missouri at accurately forecasting the weather. 

We arrived on Sunday mid-day completely and totally exhausted.  Sleep was hard to come by on the plane.  By the time I finally got to be Sunday night, it had been 38 hours since I’d truly slept.  Needless to say, most of Sunday is a blur.  We started off with a short trip up to the Kahlenberg, otherwise known as the naked mountain.  No nudity there, but the views were amazing.  I’d never been up there before.  We were fortunate that the sky was clear and we were able to see the entire city from above, with the majestic Danube River winding through the middle.  Stunning!  Lunch was a nice Pfefferwurst with Pomme Frites (spicy sausage with fries).  Just street food, but cheap and truly delicious.  I’m a true foodie, so I love to eat as authentic as possible.  It doesn’t get more authentic than street food of any kind and this was perfect to help me find my 2nd wind, or by that time I might have been looking for my 3rd or 4th wind!  After the overlook, we had a short walking tour through the city center, an early dinner of Wiener Schniztel, and I was out like a log by 9:00 PM. 

Monday was a thousand times better.  It’s amazing how much a difference a good night of horizontal sleep makes.  Everyone in the group was back to their normal mostly happy selves, no more of the crankiness and grumpiness that was creeping it’s way in the day before.   We started the day with a tour of the Schonnbrunn Palace (picture below).  This was the summer residence of the Hapsburg dynasty that ruled the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire for over 600 years.  Can you imagine that this was just their summer house!  Over 1400 rooms in the place.  One room, which was intricately tiled with wood carvings, mirrors, and elephant shaped frescoes, was valued at over $150 Million!!  And that was just one out of 1400.  I can only imagine how much this palace is valued at, and it was just the summer residence.  The palace isn’t really as spectacular as Versailles outside of Paris, but I think it’s a much nicer visit.  Not nearly as crowded.  The distinctive yellow paint on the outside of the palace was incredibly influential in its day, and nearly every building in the surrounding villages attempted to copy the color on its exterior.  Some interesting things about the Hapsburgs for those who don’t know:  The most famous of the Hapsburgs was probably Maria Theresa, often thought of as the matriarch of European royalty.  She ended up having 11 living children (lost 5, I think, children in infancy) and of those 7 were ‘marriage material’ as the remaining 4 were phyically or mentally handicapped.  Why?  Inbreeding. The Hapsburgs were notorious for marrying their 1st cousins.  Most of the offspring only ended up with large foreheads and their distinctive “Hapsburg Lip,” but it wasn’t uncommon for some of the children to be severely disabled.  Perhaps Maria Theresa’s most famous daughter was Marie Antionette, who ended her days in Paris and lost her head in the revolution.  Needless to say, the Schonnbrunn Palace was a great place to start the day.  We had some time to stroll about the gardens, taking in the manicured hedges, trees, and flowers.  The oldest continuously running zoo in the world is in the gardens, the former menagerie of animals gifted to the royal family

From Schonnbrunn, it was into the city for some time to explore.  We had a nice bus tour that included a stop at the bizarrely unique Hundertwasser house (Pictures below), and architectural gem that happens to be the first environmental and ecologically friendly house to be build.  The architect built several of these buildings, but this is the first and most famous.  Even the bathrooms are weird, and considered modern art.  The idea of the architecture was to avoid  using straight lines, and instead to reflect the contours of the human body.  I’m not sure exactly what I think about it all, but it was pretty cool. 

I spent the rest of the day wandering around the streets of Vienna.  Having been to Vienna before, I had already visited most of the tourist attractions.  So, after a quick meander past the museum quarter (pictures below), the Parliament Building (picture below), and the Rathaus (picture below), through the Volksgarten and through the Winter residence of the Hapsburgs, I spent the rest of the day purposely getting lost.  It’s actually one of my favorite things to do in a city.  I just love getting lost and then trying to find my way back without the use of maps or asking directions.  It’s a great way to get to know the character of a city because you often find things you wouldn’t normally encounter, and you tend to find yourself on streets that tourist rarely find their way to, but locals are busily doing their thing.  I probably walked 3-4 miles, but he exercise was great. 

In the evening, we went to a concert!  Not a rock concert, but classical.  Originally used as the theatre where Johann Strauss debuted many of his works, the theater now houses daily performances of Strauss and Mozart, the prodigal, musical sons of Vienna.  Strauss, the ’golden boy’ of Vienna was incredibly popular in his time, with girls swooning and fawning over him, even grabbing at his curly locks to get a souvenir. Look out Justin Bieber!!  The funny thing is, though, that after his day, he isn’t nearly as renowned as Viennas other famous composer, Mozart.  Mozart in his day didn’t get nearly the respect and appreciation that he ultimately attained after his death.  In fact, he died a relatively somber death and was buried in a paupers grave that was lost in time.  But everywhere you go in Vienna, it’s Mozart, Mozart, Mozart.  You can buy t-shirts, ties, CDs, posters, and even the famous Mozart balls (a nice little chocolatey treat), but you rarely come across Strauss.  In any event, the only way to truly experience the musical heritage of Vienna is to listen to the music of these two guys.  One is practically harassed by countless college aged students dressed in powder wigs trying to sell you tickets to one of the dozens of concerts.  We were fortunate, however, to get tickets to a legit show, not one performed by students in training, but by accomplished musicians.  The orchestra was perfect and played the music with all the right inflection to capture the emotional essence of each piece. The singers had amazing operatic voices that echoed through the theater, and the dancers did the waltz better than anything you’d see on Dancing with the Stars.  What a perfect way to end our stay in Vienna.  Sweet dreams with a song-filled soundtrack followed.

Today, we’re on the road to Munich, with stops in Salzburg.  I’ll try to post again this evening with an account of today’s events.  We’ll find out just how alive the hills are…
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