Friday, March 15, 2002

A lap around Vienna

Vienna, Austria
I woke up around 7am, was the first to shower, and was done with breakfast by 07:30. I’m going straight for the Stephensdom, which is in the center of town. Because it’s so early, only worshippers are there. I can’t really describe the place as anything other than grand and intricate. And quiet. But as soon as I stepped outside, the construction noise was in full effect. The spire is under scaffolding. The area around the Stephensdom is what you’d think Old World Europe-in-the-city would look like. On my first pass, I missed the Spanish Riding School, home of the Lipizzaners. As it turns out, I’m just in time for the morning practice. I got in on a student rate, and got one of the best views in the house. I think that they were playing Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Strauss for background music. I saw them teaching one horse how to walk, but some of the horses looked like they were dancing instead. One fact I learned is that they are born gray and turn white after 8 or 9 years. I found a nice ceramic Lippizaner stallion trinket for my collection at the gift store.

I went over to the Café Hawelka for some coffee, a much needed pick me up. The Viennese are really picky about their coffee. I went with what’s called ‘melange’, a blend of coffee and hot milk. Pretty good stuff. The atmosphere is dark, relaxed, that place where shabby chic and classic meet. The waiter was in full formal attire, but the patrons are only nicely dressed. After coffee, I went for a walk around the Ringstrasse. There are lots of grand buildings and parks. It’s really sunny, which makes me sneeze. I expect someone to say ‘Gesundheit’ any moment. Tonite’s opera is Swan Lake. The only tickets available are for 140€ for nearly front row, or 9€ just to listen (I guess it’s view is blocked somehow). The Vienna Boys Choir only plays on Sunday. That completes the performance goals for Vienna. I found my way over to the Secession Building, which houses Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze and other avante-garde art. Some pieces were quite interesting, but many weren’t. It only cost 2.90€ so I don’t think they ripped me off. Being in the museum state of mind, I headed to the Upper Belvedere, where the Austrian Gallery houses their 19th and 20th century paintings. Along the way, I stopped into a grocery store and bought a bottle of ‘Red-Orange Geschmack Goût’ flavored Gatorade. I don’t know about the gout, but I was looking for the red-orange colored drink. At the gallery, I saw more of Klimt’s stuff, including The Kiss.

Daylight is slipping away, and my camera has no flash, so I was off to my last agenda item: Hundertwasser Haus. Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an artist who created a controversial apartment building. It’s controversial because it’s not really what you think apartments should look like. I don’t think I’d want to live there—too many curving lines. As the apartment isn’t directly listed on my maps, I had to go by instinct. The best I could tell, it was due east of the U-bahn station I came out of. I asked one person on the street to get oriented, then I kept the sun at my back until I found one, then the other of the cross roads. I arrived just in time to catch the sunset reflecting off the tiled walls. Back on the tram, then to the U-bahn. I realized that I’d missed seeing the Danube, so I got out at a stop near it and walked across the bridge. I sat on the banks of the Danube while I updated my journal, then went over to the U-bahn station so that I could check my train times for tomorrow. When I was sure when my train would be leaving, I went back to the hostel to see if other people were going out to dinner.

My room was filled with people, six including myself. As they were low on Euro, we ate at the hostel bar. I ended up eating a pizza, it was okay. After a few drinks, we headed out to see the sights that they missed. We walked down Mariahilfer Straße and somehow found our way to the Stephensdom. It looked fantastic the way they had it lit up, but being 11pm, it was closed. So we followed roughly my morning route, saw the Roman ruins at Michaeler Platz, which was all lit up. We then went out on the Ringstrasse where all those big old building were lit up like a postcard photo. I’d left my camera in my rooom, but I’m fairly convinced the pictures wouldn’t have turned out. Down to the Opera, also closed. The other five people I was with were only moderately interesting to talk to, save a guy from Idaho who seemed genuinely interested in the facts that I recalled from the guidebook. We headed back to the hostel where I went to sleep, after prepping my bag for a 06:40 departure from the hostel. I think that was midnight, and tow of my roommates stumbled in at 2am, waking me up. The Red Bull I had at 11pm didn’t help either.

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