Sunday, September 30
We overslept, and were awakened by a knock on the door from Frau Steinbock. We dressed hurriedly (in our good clothes) and after eating quickly rushed off to the Burgkapelle. We had left our names Friday for tickets to the Vienna Boys Choir, and were hoping that some tickets would become available. When we arrived there was quite a crowd. I almost despaired of getting in, and thought of leaving. But we stayed, and soon distinguished the ticket line from the standing room line. I got into the ticket line and Cheryl got in the other, so all bets were covered. Finally, after a long wait, watching people pick up their reserved tickets, our names were called, and we got two tickets. Right behind us in getting tickets was an Australian couple named George and Ruth. We went up to the first balcony, and sat in the last of about five rows.
It is to be a solemn high Mass, and the music is Mozartts “Missa Longa in C major”. The program we bought has two beautiful pictures of the chapel on the cover. In this small space, they pack all the people attending, the Sangerknaben, and a small orchestra. The effect is stupendous. And while it is a performance, it is also a Mass. They took up a collection as usual, and Cheryl and I received Communion in a small room to the right of the chapel. We simply indicated to the usher (usually an older boy, formerly a singer in the choir) that we wanted to receive, and he escorted us downstairs. The people on the main floor receive at the altar.
After Mass, we went with George and Ruth back to their hotel, where they packed up and checked out, and we all drove to Schonbrunn palace. Yesterday, at Belvedere, I had felt that for the first time that I knew what grandeur was. But the Schonbrunn entirely dwarfs the Belvedere. The four of us went through the large courtyard, and through the main palace building, emerging
in a huge garden. A long walk took us to the Neptune fountain, which was not working (unfortunately). But we stopped to admire the Koi and Goldfish in the pond at the base of the fountain, in front. We then walked up a hill with criss-cross paths (like shoe-laces) to the Gloriette. The Gloriette is a free-standing arch, located on top of the hill, and roughly in the center of the grounds. We climbed up on top to get a view of the palace and the grounds.
After sitting and chatting with George and Ruth, we descended and walked back to the main palace, where we took our leave of our two friends, who are off to Venice. They have been touring Europe for two months, while George was looking for a position of some sort with a University (I never did learn what it was about, but he did explain to me that his job hunt made the trip tax deductible).
Cheryl and I then found a cafe sufficiently far from the palace to have reasonable prices, and had a lunch of Bratwurst and soup. We returned to the palace in time for the English-speaking tour, and saw 45 of the 1,200 rooms in that building. Particularly interesting was the round “China” room, so called because it was entirely decorated by artwork from China. Maria Theresia used it as a private conference room, and it had double doorways to ensure privacy. Between one of the sets of doors was a secret doorway by which Von Kanitz, the Chancellor, could descend from his apartment upstairs to join the meeting without being observed from outside. We also saw the private rooms of Franz Josef and his wife Elizabeth, and the room where Napoleon stayed whenever he was in Vienna.
After the tour, we sat and rested for a while, and then went to the Coach museum. This has various coaches used by aristocracy over the last several centuries, along with portraits of favorite horses of tl10 Kaisers, and portraits of all the stable masters since the 1500’s. We then went through the palace building to the garden, and out along a long diagonal path where the trees were trimmed to a perfectly flat surface, arriving at the zoo. We toured the zoo until closing time, and then took the trolley back to the Burgring.
We had dinner at a restaurant which upon reflection had gone downhill. Our tablecloth was torn on one side, and the atmosphere was not exactly Viennese. It is called Cafe Mozart, and is probably oriented to American tourists. The food was good, however. We had Steak Napoleon, which is a veal steak, ham and cheese, a beef steak, and a piece of pineapple, piled on a piece of toast (the toast is a giveaway–no one knows what it is in Vienna) along with the ubiquitous
Pommes Frittes. Just about anything you order (except possibly breakfast) comes with french fries here. After dinner, we window shopped along the way back home.
Monday, October 1
Our last full day in Vienna. We started with another of Frau Steinbock’s excellent breakfasts, and kept four slices of buttered bread, along with two left over from yesterday, for lunch. We stopped at the supermarket around the corner for pears, emmenthaler cheese, and mineral water, and then went to a bookstore on Wollzeilegasse to buy a book for Heidi. We picked up the car and headed south to the Vienna woods.
The Vienna woods are really only undeveloped areas around Vienna, much like New Hampshire or the Berkshires, and while the Viennese love them dearly, they are not remarkable (although it may be that Europe has fewer undeveloped areas of this kind). But it is the end of a very tiring trip, the day is foggy and cold, and a drive in the country is good for us.
Our first stop was rather unusual. We visited Seegrotte at Hinterbruhl, which is the largest underground lake in Europe. The caverns were once a gypsum mine, and in World War II were the site of an underground Heinkel Aircraft factory. The Allies bombed the site without effect, but the Nazis blew up the works when they left. Its sole purpose now is as a tourist attraction. We took a boat ride through the caverns.
We then drove to Heiligenkreuze (Holy Cross) and saw a twelfth century abbey. We then drove back to Vienna by a different route and headed north to Klosterneuburg. We parked here and had lunch, and then drove around for a while, finally going atop the Kallenberg Heights. We then drove back to Vienna and returned the car.
We went to Demels and bought an assortment of cookies to go, and bought some records, and then headed for the Prater. We both took a ride on the famous ferris wheel, then I went on a roller coaster, and Cheryl took a few shots at a monster shooting gallery (Spukschoss). We had Bratwurst and french fries for dinner and returned to Frau Steinbock’s to write some last minute postcards and eat cookies. We decided that heaven must be something like eating Demels’ cookies in bed.
Tuesday, October 2
We take a shower to prepare for the trip home, and have breakfast. After packing our bags, we went to the Hilton hotel where, we have learned, we can get a bus to the airport. I sat with the bags while Cheryl finished the shopping for souvenirs, and then she stayed with the luggage while I found Post Office to mail the last of the postcards. Then it’s off to the airport.
The airport is quite a ways from the city, but we have allowed plenty of time for connections, so we sit back and enjoy our last look at the countryside of Austria. We checked in at the airport and settled down to wait for our 1:00 flight to London. The plane is delayed, but we were scheduled for a 90 minute stopover in London, so all is well.
In London, we again go through the extremely strict search (they take no chances here, and with their IRA troubles we can see why), and then get our boarding passes. As we enter the boarding area, the attendant calls someone over, saying “Here are the two in those seats”. We breathe a sigh of relief when the other attendant says “It’s ok, they are the right ones.” We boarded the plane and discovered to our surprise that we had seats in the Elizabethan class section. This seems too good to be true, and it is. Shortly the Purser comes along and tells us we are in the wrong seats. He then offers to let one of us stay, but the other must go back to coach. So I leave Cheryl to find the steerage section, where the flight attendant puts me in a single empty seat. The woman sitting next to me immediately complains that the seat is supposed to be for a friend of hers, and wants to know where her friend is. At this point it is obvious that we are not going to get out of London smoothly, so I pullout my book and leave my fate in the hands of higher authorities.
I noticed that the crew is busy running around, shuffling people, and it appears that the flight must have been overbooked. Since I am certain that many people are creating a scene, and the crew is certain to feel harassed by the situation, I decide to be one person who is completely agreeable to anything they ask, since this may endear me to them. At the same time, Cheryl is sitting next to an empty seat, and points this out (nicely) to one of the flight attendants, and lets drop the fact that we are on our honeymoon.
The flight attendant then comes to the woman next to me, asks her name, and explains that they have been paging her for 30 minutes (in her defence, the intercom was barely audible). It seems her friend has been outside all this time, telling the crew that this woman had her boarding pass, which turns out to be true. As they sort this out, it looks like I am going to lose my seat, but I say nothing and smile sweetly. I am rewarded by a smile and a knowing wink from the Purser. Shortly, the flight attendant comes up to me and says “Mr. O’Brien, your wife looks very lonely. Why don’t you come up and join her?” So in the end we are seated together in better seats than we paid for, which isn’t a bad result. It is obvious that had we tried the “in thing”, Being Assertive, we would have been sunk.
As we take off, we feel that we are home free. Ha! When we got to Boston, we discovered that British Airways had lost all our luggage. So we filled out the report and went home. We finally did get our luggage a few days later, and, of all things, one extra bag. This took us several more days to return.