Sunday, June 30, 2013

Vienna: Day 3

We started out our final day in Vienna a little later than the past two, because we had to check out of the hotel before departing for the day's adventures.  Since our train left at night but checkout is midday, the hotel was pleased to hold our stuff until closer to when we departed.

We decided to head back down towards the Spanish riding school.  Laurel had wanted to do some souvenir shopping on Thursday, but she hadn't gotten a chance to do it because the riding school's shop closed early in preparation for their grand ball on Friday evening.  We were soon stopped, however, by some sort of marching band.  We never completely figured out what they were, but they played a song familiar to the school's performances, which was very fun for the crowd.

The main goal of Saturday, however, was a tour of the Vienna state opera house. The tours are fairly quick and briskly-paced, but they still gave us plenty of time to take photos, some of which are below.  One note: the stage and backstage is actually bigger than the auditorium itself.  The opera house was damaged extensively in WWII, and so pretty much everything in the theater/stage area is a renovated version of the original.  For some reasons I fail to completely understand, though, they didn't put in quite all of the detail of the original design.  It's still beautiful.

The website for the opera claimed that there were no performances on the days of our visit.  It turns out there were a few last ones (they close June 30), but we had not enough warning to get tickets.  Even the wait-in-line-standing-room-only tickets wouldn't have been good for us; we'd be under-dressed and tired (and probably stinky) from running around all day, plus we'd likely have needed to leave early to catch our train.  Instead, we satisfied ourselves with the tour and went on our way.

We then did a more proper tour of St. Stephan's cathedral than our rushed, pre-opening visit on Thursday morning.  We got to see the catacombs (no photos), which were pretty neat.  They had some famous bishops and whatnot, but the graves of the commoners were also in that crypt.  When the bodies decayed to bones and the graves started filling up, they moved the bones into more compact arrangements in order to fit more bodies.  The result?  Walls literally made of skulls and bones.  We weren't allowed to take photos of this, but this link will give you an idea.  There are literally thousands and thousands of people buried under the church, some of which have turned to dust via decay.  It really puts an image to Genesis 3:19, "...for dust you are and to dust you will return."

We also climbed the north tower of St. Stephan's.  Although only halfway up the tour, it still afforded fabulous views of the city.

There was another monument of Vienna that we kept seeing pictures of but hadn't found in person.  It's a statue of Johann Strauss in gold, playing a violin.  We decided to hop on a subway and see Mr. Strauss.

Puffer was very excited to discover a small, neglected fountain of penguins in the same park.  Even though he's a puffin, he tried to blend in.

Laurel also found herself in Vienna.  Turns out she's a clothing store.

After that, we got some food and started heading out towards our departing train.  As we were waiting for the train, however, there was a bachelorette party getting underway nearby.  Apparently some of the ladies were trying to raise funds for the bride-to-be's bar hopping, and thus were hawking all manners of candy, individual liquor shots, small toiletries, etc. to people sitting around the train station.  Laurel and I were sitting next to some of their fist victims, and fortunately they had to have the conversation in English so we had a clue what was going on.  After 10 minutes or so of discussion produced about 1 Euro from these fellows, they turned towards us.  However, by this time, Laurel and I had planned very carefully and were down to our last five Euro-cents.  They still gave us some things, and I requested a picture in return.  I swear my wife was very close to me during this whole experience.  (They were also amused by my referring to them as "bunnies.")

Thus concludes our wonderful three days in Vienna.  We saw a lot, were exhausted several times, and I had a lot of fun (Laurel says, "you mean beer, right?").  I recommend it to anyone who wants to see a lot of imperial majesty and history.


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