Day 12: A Full Day in Vienna
For those who looked for a blog post yesterday, my apologies. After a full day in Vienna, I didn’t feel up to writing a post at 11 p.m. This morning (Saturday), I hope to write a little more cogently and post a few pictures. At any rate, here goes.
A riding and walking tour occupied our morning hours as we oriented ourselves to one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Vienna. I’ve never been a fan of bus tours and yesterday’s did nothing to change my mind. For about 30 minutes, we drove in and around Vienna with a guide who described historic buildings usually hidden behind trees or trucks outside the bus or heads inside the bus. I was anxious to get off and start walking.
When the bus parked and we departed, the real tour began and we spent the next hour and a half admiring beautiful–though not terribly old–buildings. Most of the buildings in Vienna that give it a special character were built in the mid to late 19th century (old, I guess by American standards), though some, of course, are much older. In 1860, the old and now useless city wall was torn down and replaced with a road, the now famous Ringstrasse or Ring Street. Along or near this street, many new public buildings were erected, including the National Art Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Parliament building and scores of others I can’t identify. The Imperial Palace had been in place for centuries before the 19th century building boom, as had St. Stephen’s Cathedral and other still standing structures in the Old City.
As our tour wound through the city, we moved easily from one century to another, even to a site where second century Roman ruins were visible in an excavation pit. We passed through an “elite” shopping area where names like Gucci, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and others whose names I didn’t recognize but whose window prices on merchandise testified to a clientele that will never include me. We drooled as we strolled past window displays of chocolates and pastries at the iconic coffee houses for which Vienna is famous. We admired great statuary in the middle of crowded shopping streets. And we craned our necks to look to the golden top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of Vienna.
When the guided tour ended, we had about 40 minutes in which to explore on our own and I knew where I wanted to go. Deml’s, an historic coffee house in the elite shopping district, where sachertorte (so much more than just chocolate cake) was first created and which is now copied all over the world. A cup of grosser brauner (coffee) and a slice of sachertorte at Deml’s and my morning was complete.
But the day was only 1/3 over. After lunch back at the ship, we joined the ship’s executive chef on a subway trip to the Green Market back in the heart of Vienna, where food stuffs, fresh vegetables, fish markets, cafes, wine bars, and an assortment of other stands stimulated all the senses. Chef Jhonny had arranged several tastings while we were in the market, including wine and cheese at one stop, fresh strawberries at the next, and a selection of wonderful pastries at the final stall. A short walk back to the subway and a quick ride back to the ship completed the afternoon.
But there was one final Viennese treat slated for the evening. No one should go to Vienna without experiencing its most memorable commodity: Music. In the evening we went to the Auesperg Palace for two hours of Mozart and Strauss performed by the Vienna Residence Orchestra, two singers and two dancers. In a beautiful pale pink and green marble performance hall lighted with large crystal chandeliers, (reportedly the room where six-year old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart jumped into Empress Maria Theresa’s lap) we listened to the inspired music that made Vienna famous. The music was the perfect end to our first day in Vienna.
But as I said, it had been a full day and I was ready to call it quits and start again today. After this blog is posted, I will be back on the subway for a return trip to town and more Viennese coffee, tasty treats, and people watching before the ship pulls out at 5 p.m. on its way to Budapest.
More from Vienna