Thursday, September 27
We get up at 7:30, and at 8:00 Frau Steinbock brings us breakfast. And what a breakfast! A big pot of coffee, two croissants, two rolls, two pastries, two pieces of raisin bread, two pieces of rye bread, two pieces of cheese, 4 slices of salami, butter, jam, and hot milk for the coffee. For 75 AS you might get a couple of cups of coffee and two rolls in any shop.
After breakfast we leave (well stuffed) and walk along the Donau canal to the far end of the Ringstrasse, discussing history along the way. We then walk along the Ringstrasse to the Fine Arts Museum. It is one of the finest in the world, housing the “private” collection of the Habsburgs. We spend two hours on one floor, seeing sculptures, jewelry, cabinets, etc., from ancient Egypt up to the eighteenth century. We then go outside to the adjoining Maria Theresien platz, take some pictures, and sit and read for a while. We then try to get tickets for the Spanish
Riding School and the Vienna Boys Choir, but both are sold out. So we get lunch. Cheryl has a cold cut salad, marinated, and a cream of mushroom soup. I have meat loaf and potatoes, and a beef consomme with little cakes in it. We didn’t know what either was when we ordered, but that is part of the fun.
After lunch we go to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It originally was built in the twelfth century, and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since. It is a gothic structure, very ornate and very difficult to do justice to in writing. We therefore take many pictures. Cheryl buys a nail to drive into a dead tree stump next to the church (an old custom of pilgrims to get St. Stephen’s help and protection on their journeys–the money now goes to restoration of the cathedral). We then go on a walking tour of churches and monuments in the Inner Stadt. Among the churches are the Jesuit church, with cork~screw columns and a mother-of-pearl inlaid pulpit; St. Ruprecht’s, the oldest church in Vienna, a Romanesque building which we see only from the outside; an Orthodox church whose name we cannot read (it is in Cyrillic); and several other chapels and churches we pass from the outside. Monuments to the Blessed Virgin are popular: we pass several. By 8:00 my feet are ready to falloff, so we have dinner. Cheryl and I both have cream of tomato soup. I have chicken and rice “Vienna style”, and she has Bundnerteller fein Garniert, which proves to be a cold-cut plate. Cheryl tells me that it is what she thought it was, only she hoped for more variety.
After dinner we have some trouble with the waitress, who doesn’t want to take my charge card. She says the bill of 220 aS (about 17.60) is “small money”. After staring her down, she takes the charges card and puts it in her apron And goes on serving other customers. After a few minutes of waiting I summon the manager and explain our problem. He says they have no problem with my charge card. I tell him that the waitress does have a problem, and would he please see to the solution of it. A minute later the waitress appears with the charge slip and we leave and go
back to our rooms.
Friday, September 28
We get up at 7:30, and at 8:00 have another fabulous Frau Steinbock break fast. This time we take two rolls with us for a snack and eat the rest. After many cups of coffee each, we still leave some in the pot. We walk down Marxergasse to Stubenring, and along the Ringstrasse to the British Airways office where we confirm our return reservations. We then went past the the Opera house into the inner Stadt, and to Josefplatz, where we got into line to see the training of the Lippizan stallions. At 10:00 am sharp the doors opened and the line moved slowly in. Tickets were 35 AS each. We got a seat on the upper level, looking down on the horses. Three groups of horses were trained for about 30 minutes each. They practiced walking, trotting, and cantering sideways. You could tell the age of the horse not only by the degree of training, but also by the color. The horses are born dark-grey, and become whiter as they age. Apparently their dentist never told them not to eat sugar. They are each rewarded with a lump at the end of the session.
We then left and circled the Albertina, and the Augustine crypt, where the hearts of the imperial family are kept in urns. The entrails are buried in the catacombs of St. Stephen’s, and the bodies are buried in the Capuchin crypt. We walked through a park (the Neuburg garden) around the back of the Neue Hofburg. We went into the Neue Hofburg, which houses several museums, and saw exhibits of arms and armor, and of old musical instruments. Around 3:00 we left, and got a fine lunch at a corner Heisse Wurstl stand. I had a Burenwurst, and Cheryl had a Leberkase (a loaf). We changed some money, and went to the Volksgarden to sit and rest.
We went into a monument in Volksgarden where there was an exhibit of cartoons and pictures concerning an opera by Offenbach called Die Schone Helena (The Beautiful Helen) about Helen of Troy. From what we can gather, the Opera was something of a scandal when it appeared here in the 1880’s. The leading lady (Helen) appeared in a costume in which the dress was slit up the side (showing much leg) and one breast was covered only by a gauze material. After seeing the exhibit, we went to Demel’s, which is one of the most famous pastry cafe’s in Vienna. You select the pastries you want from the tables and get a ticket which you give to the waitress
who serves you. We got three pastries: a walnut cake with caramel icing, a yellow cake with raspberries in a sweet gelatin on top, and a pastry somewhat like a bakhlava. We did some more walking around, got into a conversation with a Viennese fellow who married an American woman, and finally had some more Heisse Wurstl from a street stand on the way horne. While eating we observe them making a hot dog, which is done a little differently. They take a bun, something like a small sub roll, cut the end off, and impale the roll on a spike about twice the width of a finger. This spike heats the roll, which is then squirted with mustard, and the frankfurter is inserted.
Saturday, September 29
We got up at 7:30, had breakfast at 8:00, and at 9:00 we left for the Inner Stadt. About 10:00 we went on a tour of the Imperial apartments at the Hofburg. Our guide spoke German, but we looked at the rooms, and later purchased a guide book in English, and some postcards (you cannot take pictures in most of the palaces because the flash would cause fading in the paintings, tapestries, etc.). Twenty rooms are open to the public, out of 2,600. We then went to Avis to reserve a car for Monday to tour the Vienna Woods. We then headed for the Belvedere Palace. Just for the hell of it, we stopped in a McDonalds. Aside from the language, it is exactly the same. (Okay class, what is a “vierterpfunder mit kase”)
The Belvedere Palace is Huge!!! My first impression is that I have never before known the meaning of grandeur. We purchased an English guide book to the palace, and got started with the Upper Belvedere, which sits at the top of a hill overlooking Vienna. A central garden leads down the slope to the Lower Belvedere. We toured the Upper Belvedere, which has a big red marble room where the treaty ending the occupation of Vienna was signed in 1955. Afterwards, we walked through the Botanical Gardens along the west side of the grounds, taking many pictures. These gardens contain a rock garden and a cactus garden that are simply magnificent. Plants from all over the world are grown here. The gardens now belong to the Botanical Institute, which adjoins the Palace. We then entered the Baroque Museum, which is in the Lower Belvedere, at the end of which is the Gold Room. Practically all of the room is covered with gold leaf, and in the center is a white marble statue of Prince Eugene, who built the palace. By this time we were completely exhausted, and could only walk with difficulty, so we went to the monument to the Russian soldiers (who liberated Austria from the Nazis) to rest.
After resting we went to a famous restaurant for the best meal of our trip. The menu was almost entirely illegible, as it was written in archaic German letters. So I ordered at random. The Shildkrotensuppe turned out to be turtle soup, with two small pieces of turtle meat ‘in the broth. It was quite nice. Cheryl had Gulaschsuppe and a grill plate, and I had Kalb steak “Metternich”.
The food here was delicious, and the prices were not too bad. Our dinner cost 420 AS, or about $34.00. The Inn is the oldest in Vienna, and looks it. We can easily imagine Mozart coming here for some refreshment.
After dinner we walked back to Frau Steinbock’s to shower and rest. We ended up reading some and planning our trip for Monday, so we did not get to bed as early as we thought we would.