Day 1, Wed 8/24: Vienna Part 1



We both slept well: Dan 7 hours, me 8. I haven’t slept that much in months. Hoping to catch up on sleep on this vacation and that was a heckuva start. We are on the 12th floor of this Hilton and the Executive Lounge is around the corner from our room so we just had breakfast there. Dan’s hotel status strikes again.

Where we had breakfast. Typical Hilton European fair – fruit, cheese, breads, eggs, sausages, deli meats and salmon.

This was in a park across the street from the hotel that we made our way through on our way to the city center.


We stopped first at the Opera House – above, although this shot taken in the evening – to pick up our Vienna Passes. Just about every city we’ve visited has a museum pass of some kind. We always literally do the math to make sure we’re going to get our money’s worth, and for Vienna we will. Most of what we want to do in Berlin is either free or not on that particular pass so it didn’t make sense there. The nice girl at the pass shop gave us some tips on getting around that we will take advantage of. The “hop on hop off” bus comes with it and there was one ready to leave as we walked out. (In the far right of this photo you can see the yellow tip of one.) We had a good experience on one in Rome so decided to try it. It wasn’t what we were expecting – turns out here there are 5 different routes, and the one we got on took us on a path we didn’t expect outside of the city center. I’ll leave it at that. The good thing to come from it is we learned the Schoenbrunn Palace is not as far out as we’d imagined and that helps us figure out timing of things. We do that tomorrow.

After we got off the bus we headed towards the historic city center. First stop was the Albertina museum. This museum is part of a huge complex of palaces and museums that I’ll discuss later in a photo of a model of the whole thing, which is pretty impressive.

So this is the first thing we come across is this exhibit. Ruh roh. If you’ve been following us for awhile, you know our disdain for contemporary art. But it was paid for, so might as well. (PS: the only modern art we really like is in the Crocker! So if you’re in Sacramento and haven’t taken advantage of that, you should fix that…it’s well worth it…)

And the epitome of what we hate about modern art. It follows Dan’s rule of “if I can do it, it doesn’t belong in a museum.”

 Despite the name on the exhibit, this was the only Warhol piece in it.

 

So there were rooms of this Jim Dine guy, an American artist supposedly part of the same pop art movement as Warhol. This particular exhibit focused on his self-portraits, and it was titled “I Never Look Away.” Jim: perhaps that’s the problem. We were literally laughing as we walked through this one and the docent was amused that we were so amused.


This was the study of Emperor Franz Stephan and Empress Maria Theresa. They had 16 children, several of them famous, including Emperor Joseph II (in the painting above), and of course Marie Antoinette. This table was a gift from her to them.

We loved the intricate parquet floor in this room. We always marvel at the craftsmanship that goes into this stuff. All that design is made from slivers of wood delicately inlayed.
The Albertina was founded as a museum by another daughter, Maria Christina. Her husband was a huge art collector and much of what’s here is from their personal collection. And it’s a good one. There were lots of names we recognized including Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse, Chagall, Degas, Picasso, and Miro (who we learned about in Barcelona), da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Rembrandt, Rubens and Raphael (although the latter 5 were all drawings, not paintings). Some of our favorites are below.

And a new name for us: Sedlacek.

We loved the look of this painting and especially the one below, both by a guy named Franz Sedlacek. The painting caught my eye first and then the name. Sedlacek is one of the fun names in my ancestry; the maiden name of my paternal grandmother’s mother as I recall. The style is called “New Objectivity.”

 

 Chagall
 Monet
 Renoir
This was a stunning room.

 

Still in the Albertina.
 Emperor Franz Joseph I believe, huge statue in front of the museum.
 There’s a nice park area to the side of it, behind some of the other buildings holding museums. We were going to the building in front of us next and were hoping for a back entrance. No such luck. It was a good walk around!

 Lots of guys on horses 🙂 Don’t remember exactly where this was.

 This was the back of the Austrian National Library.
The front of the Austrian National Library. This wasn’t on our list of things to do but it was on the Pass and we really just wanted to see the inside of the building.
 And we weren’t disappointed by the architecture one bit. This whole complex is brought to you courtesy of the Habsburg Empire, which ruled the region for about 600 years.

This was a 3-in-1 museum: armory, musical instruments and ancient sculptures. We cruised through it pretty fast. The armor stuff was the most interesting, although there was rooms and rooms of this stuff so once you’ve seen one…

We just kept marveling how incredibly uncomfortable all of that had to be 🙂 In so many ways….


The view coming out of the library. That’s Rathaus (City Hall) in the background, which was on our list for the day but we never made it over there. Oh well, 2 more days…we’ll work it in somewhere…

We finally found the Hofburg Imperial Palace which we’d been heading towards all morning. But now it was lunch time, about 2pm. We went off the beaten path a bit for a bite at a Hungarian place.

Dan’s was chicken in a paprika sauce and what they called dumplings, what I would call spaetzle. He just thought it was OK.

I had beef goulash with Hungarian pasta, which was more like couscous. We both agreed this was the better dish.

The entrance to the Imperial Palace. Most of this was an exhibit of the living quarters of Empress Elizabeth, one of the last, who was assassinated in 1898.There was also lots of china and silverware.

You weren’t supposed to take photos but Dan snuck a few in. We loved this model of the area. In this shot, the Albertina is in the darkness of the top right. This building on the left in the foreground is the Natural History museum where we were this evening. The statue in the middle of two in the foreground is Maria Theresa, you’ll see it later. The building in the background in the light is the Library, which is also facing you in the photo below. The Imperial Palace is this square in the center left of the photo below.

 

We actually take quite a few photos of explanations like this on our trips, it helps with the details of the blog later. They just never actually make it to the blog. Decided to leave this one in. Note that some of the buildings in this complex are still in use by the current administration.

 The beautiful state dining room. Dan tried to get a better shot on the other side. That’s how we learned photos were forbidden 🙂

We liked this street shot; just off center is a large sculpture that we saw as we were leaving the restaurant for lunch off a side street. We were hoping to get a better shot but we were too far away.

Next stop: St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Cologne is better 🙂 (We are Such cathedral snobs…)

 

We decided to do the catacombs tour. It started off a little snoozy – caskets of bishops, cardinals and royalty who’d been buried here over the last 600 years. Then we went into a different section and suddenly: bones, lots and lots of bones. Again, you weren’t supposed to take pictures but Dan snuck a couple in, it was just so dark they didn’t come out well. The first bones we saw – not in either of these photos – were of bodies that had been at caskets at one point, but the wooden caskets had deteriorated all around them leaving remarkably intact skeletons behind. This photo and the one below it are part of several mass graves from the thousands of people who died during the Plague from around 1350-1400.

If you look really carefully you can just barely make out some of the skulls in the wall of bones in the background. Look top right edge not quite a quarter of the way down. There are several others you can pick out in the right lighting.

Next was an elevator up the North Tower (the South was stairs but it was about to close). This portion of the room was tiled artfully, with an insignia mosaic.

 

 I believe the white building in the background right of center is our hotel.

We went back to the hotel about 5:45 to rest and charge our phones. We hung out in the lounge and were there when they brought dinner. We weren’t too hungry but had some bread and cheese, Dan tried some of the deli appetizers. (Also the main course was hamburgers which didn’t look at all interesting.) That was pretty much our dinner. We went out again a little after 7, heading towards the Natural History Museum which is open until 9pm on Wednesdays.

You saw this earlier in the model. That’s the statue of Maria Theresa in the middle of this complex.

 

 Again, we were more interested in the building than the exhibits.

 

 A giant spider crab, a gift from a Japanese Emperor to one of the Austrian Emperors, Franz Joseph maybe. Giant. No kidding. Can you imagine that thing showing up on your dinner plate?
 The ceiling above the stairs I’m walking down below.

 

 The other museum across the square. I don’t recall which one it is but I’m sure we’ll make it over there at some point.

 

 The National Library at night.
We walked back to the hotel the long way through town. Stopped at a gelato place we’d seen earlier; excellent of course. We do love the ice cream in Europe. Dan had a work conference call at 9:30. I went down to the steam room and sauna and hung out there while he worked. There was no one else there so that was nice. It was the perfect way to end a full day. According to Dan’s iPhone, we walked 10.24 miles today. And I bet we do it again tomorrow 🙂
It is now 1:10am. Dan’s already asleep. I’m headed there any moment. Here’s a bonus shot for hanging out with us today….

 

 

 

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