Waking up Saturday morning provided no surprises with respect to the weather. More of the same is simply the norm. The plan was to visit the Schönbrunn Palace which we decided to still do regardless.
It is imposing as most of these residences are. The Habsburg monarchs definitely new how to live in style. With just over 1400 rooms, sitting on 160 acres, it first became officially known as Schönbrunn in 1642.
During the reign of Maria Theresa it was remodelled into its present identity and it was also there that Franz Joseph, Austria’s longest reigning emperor, was born. Maria Theresa had 16 children during her 40 year tenure – 11 daughters (10 named Maria) and 5 sons. At least 9 of the children did not see adulthood (and 3 didn’t make it past infancy), but one certainly made her mark, Maria Antonia (later known as Maria Antoinette).
However, just to keep everything normal (after the weather), once again pictures within the palace are not allowed. Without fully understanding all the intricacies and certainly not wishing to incriminate myself, my camera seemed to have taken on a life of its own. When I returned to our hotel room after the day’s activities, I found there were, in fact, a couple of pictures on the memory card that I swear I had nothing to do with. I’m going to chalk it up to ghosts and be happy they were kind enough to provide a couple of remembrances.
The palace gardens, as beautiful as I’m sure they are, had to be left unobserved on this occasion. The rain was simply too persistent in its endeavors. With silent regrets our footsteps led back to the subway to find new venues to explore.
Each town/city we have visited has had a city center that is full of distinction and Vienna is no exception. Stephensplatz, home of Stephensdom, one of the tallest churches in the world, is alive with fashion, food and festivities. It’s Friday, the day after payday and yes, everything is open to help trim your wallet.
The cathedral sits on grounds that have had churches there since the mid 1100’s. The tallest tower (at 446 ft.) was finished in 1433 and the funeral for Antonio Vivaldi (think, Four Seasons) was held in it in 1741. It’s been around a while and even managed to survive WW II. With 23 bells (the biggest of which weighing in at just over 44,000 lbs!) it can certainly create sound. However it was the lack of hearing those bells that made Beethoven appreciate just how deaf he had become.
Still the rain comes down so we duck (yes…another of those puns) into a restaurant for a bite with a small hope that maybe by the time we leave the weather will improve. It was somewhat of a forlorn hope. Improvement is very slight in that it is no longer a full on shower…more like a misty annoyance. It is enough to dampen spirits and camera equipment but much has been seen. And some new friends from Zwilling Henckels have decided to accompany me home.
Tomorrow brings new visitations and (at least according to the weather reports) the actual possibility of…sun!!
Saturday arrives bringing…a breakup of clouds? Really? Fabulous! We had read about a farmers / flea market that, with a lack of rain, had now become even more enticing. Breakfast wasn’t considered knowing that there would be more than could possibly be handled where we were headed. Down to the subway and back above ground a little while later. A short walk down a couple of blocks and there it is.
Naschmarkt…since the 16th century this 1.5 km. stretch has been a place to buy things. Around the mid 1700s, fruits and veggies that were carted to Vienna had to be sold there whereas goods brought in via the Danube had to be sold elsewhere. The farmers market is open daily and the flea market, at the one end, is open on Saturdays. A leisurely stroll takes us past, literally, everything from soup to nuts. Spices of every conceivable individuality and mixture, fresh fish and seafood, prepared meats of all varieties, breads and other dough imaginations, cheeses (some covered in…hay??), flowers, desserts the likes of which make you inflate by simply walking by, culinary and visual delights that take us the better part of 2 hours to walk past.
And all with the sun shining down. Not very warm, but not at all wet and totally gratifying.
The late breakfast we appreciated (due to its taste and very affordable cost) helped us wind our way through the ever-increasing crowds. Finally, our senses well overloaded, we left in search of another famous Vienna landmark – the state opera house.
Again, a short couple of blocks away and it revealed itself. Wiener Staatsoper is almost a rarity in that it hasn’t been around for all that long, at least not in European terms of reference. Built in the mid 19 century, it became known as the Vienna State Opera in 1920. Much of it was destroyed in WW II, but fortunately it was rebuilt and finalized by 1955. Along with being one of the busiest opera houses in the world, it also has a huge operating budget of approx. 100 million Euros (and about half is covered by the state).
The seating area, front to back, is about 23 m. The stage, however, is about 53 m. deep – so pretty much twice as deep as the seating area. The stage is a highly complex concoction, with several sections that raise and lower as well as portions that come out from either the left or right side.
As an aside, I think that more than the sun shined on us today. Somehow we managed to get to almost the very front of the line when the door opened for tour tickets. And at the ticket window, the vendor simply offered us senior tickets without asking for any kind of proof. Given that the age requirement for those is 65, I guess I’m finally looking my age (although many would suggest I don’t act it…)
Here pictures are not only allowed, even with flash, but are encouraged. Wonders will never cease. Although the tour itself is somewhat limited (there is a production going on every day for about 10 months of the year and they were getting ready for one this very evening), what we did mange to see was impressive to say the least. Good tickets (if you’re willing to stand and can get past all those that WILL be ahead of you) can be had for as little as 4 Euro each. However if you would prefer to sit, tickets can go a lot higher…upwards of 200 Euro is common.
Back out onto the street we go. Now it is getting a little later in the day and we wander around without rhyme or reason, simply enjoying the sun and the sights. Oh Look!! Our two favorite stores…Swarovski and Rolex. Lets have a peek in one, shall we?
It had been suggested that we at least ‘visit’ the Swarovski store in Vienna if we wanted to see those products in all their splendor. And to see 3 floors of crystal bling is really something to take in. It’s another of those stores you go to when you have too much money and just don’t know what to get someone that already has everything. Maybe a fish for 17,000 Euro. Or perhaps a very tall dragon for 24,000 Euro. Not your style? Then it’s got to be the panther…for only 35,000 Euro. (oh yeah…don’t forget although it includes the 20% sales tax, for Canadians at least, the exchange rate will take another 50% out of your pocket).
Maybe I’ll win the 649 tonight???
The day is done and back we go. It’s packing night tonight as we are on the road for a full day tomorrow, heading to Verona. As the road winds (as opposed to as the crow flies), it will take the better part of 7 hours to drive (although we all know that’s not possible given how SOME people need to stop for photo ops…). So, dear friends, I may not return here until Monday but that will include a report on the Gerado Cesari Winery near Lake Garda along with tasting notes concerning their award winning Amarone’s. There will also be questions asked regarding shipping to Canada. 🙂 Talk with you soon.