Thursday, June 27, 2013

Vienna: Day 1

The post title is a bit misleading.  It's actually going to start a little before we arrived in Vienna.  Laurel and I took an overnight train from Krakow to Vienna, and it was our first non-plane-overnight-travel experience.  I can say that it was better than anticipated.  We paid for a cabin for just the two of us.  There was more space than I had feared.  The sleep was about as I had expected because the train had to stop at various points, which has a way of waking you up even when it's a relatively smooth transition from movement to parked.  Laurel's edit: the sleep was actually fairly poor, at least for me, but I suppose that wasn't entirely unexpected.  I was just annoyed that I woke up every time the train stopped.  That being said, it was still better than the sleep I got on the plane going over the Atlantic.

There's something odd about traveling overnight.  It's completely disorienting, even though you know it's going to happen, to go to sleep in place A and wake up in place B.  Such was the case for us when we stumbled bleary-eyed onto the train platform in Vienna at 6:30 AM this morning.  Eventually we got our bearings, dropped off our luggage in the hotel (of course, we can't check in at 7 AM), and got some breakfast.

The nice thing about arriving in tourist central in Vienna at something like 7:30 AM is that there are no tourists there.  But Laurel and I had little choice; we had no hotel, we can't stay on the train, and it's not that much fun to sit in a coffee shop for 3 hours until things actually open up.  So, we wandered around for a bit undisturbed by tourist groups.

The first stop was St. Stephen's plaza ("Stefanplatz"), where we were able to sneak into the cathedral of St. Stephen for a preview because they weren't collecting entrance fees yet.  Of course, some of the cool stuff wasn't open, either, so we'll wind up going back and paying those fees anyway, but I felt briefly victorious.  Fun fact: if you go to Google maps and search "Vienna, Austria," it drops the marker almost exactly on Stefanplatz.

The roof is the most distinct part of this church.  That, and its ultra-huge, 448 ft tower.  To compare, that church I keep taking pictures of in the main square of Krakow (St. Mary's) is a measly 262 ft tall.

Note the lack of tourists...

Puffer had to get in on at least one shot in an area more his size.

Laurel and I then wandered down to an area of royal Hapsburg building frenzy.  I'm not sure if it's just one Hapsburg palace that got chopped up into different museums, or if only one part of it is the official "palace."  There are about 10 huge, marble buildings within a couple blocks of each other, all filled with libraries, museums, and the Spanish riding school.  We got to take some fun pictures, but nothing opened until 10AM.

We took a break in a park hidden behind one of these buildings.  It's a nice backyard, and we found a statue of Mozart with a treble clef in flowers in front of him.

About this time the school groups started coming around. Laurel and I were content to sit and watch them go by.  Laurel was wearing her "Polska" fleece (a good thing, too, since it was about 60F at this point), and one of the Austrian schoolgirls called over to her "Dzien dobry," which is Polish for "good day" (a slightly more formal greeting).  Laurel picked up on it and responded.  It was funny to us that the girl thought we were Polish.

We decided to journey into a three-for-one museum in one of these buildings: a museum of musical instrument history, a museum of armor and weaponry, and a museum of Ephesus, like the city referred to in Ephesians.  These seemed to be pretty well aligned with our interests and a fun way to spend some hours.  There were several cool items, including a piano Schubert played on, some instruments owned by Beethoven, and lots of Mozart items.  Here's a collection of pictures of it.

That's a cello with six strings and frets, by the way.  The early musical instrument makers weren't afraid to create sometimes bizarre combinations of instruments.  This one is clearly the result of a cello mating with a guitar.  Fortunately, the blood line died out pretty quickly on that one.

That's a piano Schubert used to compose and play at his friend's place, by the way.

At this point, we had lunch and then journeyed to the Spanish riding school.  We had booked tickets in advance, luckily, because the tours were completely sold out.  The performances of the horses are in the morning, which then leaves an awkward break until the tours in the afternoon; we opted to just go for the tour, and I believe it was the better choice.  Laurel was very excited about this.  Here she is on her way to the stable:

No, she's not planning to steal one, she's just really happy.  Laurel's edit: I do look evil! 

The tour goes twice through the stables and pauses to let you check out the horses (but no pictures of them), and the horses are almost as interested in you as you are in them.  They were pretty active, as I've seen stabled horses go, and Laurel got to see them a whole lot closer than if she had just gone to the show.
(Laurel taking over here) The tour also went to the Winter Arena, which was being fully decked out for the HUGE summer ball event tomorrow night.  I think this gave us just enough of a glimpse into what this gala affair might be like without having to pay the 80 Euros or whatever it is to get in.

Sadly, the gift shop was closed after the tour due to the preparations for the ball, so I was unable to browse their  souvenirs afterward.  We'll be back.

Also, big news!  Europe is apparently becoming aware of its constant state of dehydration.  We found, for quite possibly the first time ever seen on the internet, an actual drinking fountain in Europe.  We took a picture, because we were so excited.

It is not a trap!  It's actually free, public water!  To give you an idea of how big of a deal this is, at the place we ate for lunch today, they wanted about 7 euros (~$9) for 0.75 liter (~3 cups) of water.  This is crazy talk to an American who is used to water being free at restaurants.  I can get used to the tiny soda bottles costing too much, but the water still boggles my mind.

At this point, we were pretty well ready to crash.  The rest of the day was pretty uneventful and non-picture-worthy, but there will be more tomorrow!


Post a Comment

Design by Wordpress Theme | Bloggerized by Free Blogger Templates | free samples without surveys