Friday, January 6, 2012

Vienna, Austria

Vienna is a really nice city.  It reminds me of Germany's younger cousin.  It embodies a lot of southern German tradition and language (or perhaps it is Germany that has adopted Austrian culture?). 

The common greeting is "Grüß Gott," which while initially unfamiliar, is a rather pleasant way of acknowledging religion in daily life.  It is similar to our "God bless you", something that is both familiar and comforting while also honoring our beliefs.  Sadly, at least in the United States, God has become shunned in our blessings, appearing rather in our curses and swears. 

The city was rather quiet today, as most people were busy celebrating Three Kings Day, either at church or with family, or both.  I passed a family herding their children, dressed as the three kings, off towards church.  One of the children was carrying a star attached to a stick and as I passed them, I smelled their incense. 

I picked up my ticket to the Vienna Boys Choir and had a nice chat with the ticket sellers in the center of town.  They were very pleasant and had a charming cat, who was too shy to be pet but yet curious enough to poke her head out when I came in.  The building where I picket up the ticket, I found out, is built on the location of Mozart's garden house where the famous composer worked on Die Zauberflöte.  That's one thing I really like about traveling in Europe -- so many places have historical or cultural significance.  The United States, being as large and as young as it is, has fewer of those and a different all-in-all feel than Europe. 

I decided to take the train from the ticket office to Schönbrunn.  It was a really nice day, bright and clear, and the palace is very beautiful.  The color yellow seems prevalent in many buildings in Vienna and this palace was no exception.  I definitely see the resemblance between it and Versailles.  I really enjoyed the audio guide and think the ticket was well worth the cost.  I wish I knew more about the Hapsburgs though.  I know bits and pieces of the various emperors and empresses, but only those that really shaped European politics and none of their connections to one another.  I was fascinated by the story of Elizabeth, or Sissi, who was married to her cousin at the age of 16.  Her story (at least as was explained in the audioguide) is bittersweet.  Although she had beauty and power and the love of her husband, the Emperor, she detested her mother-in-law, lost several children young, may not have even liked her husband, and was assassinated when she was in her early 60s.  She sounds like a feminist, in the way she did not bow down to traditional roles but she also sounds like she was unhappy. 

I ate dinner in a Viennese tavern and had roast (beef?) with onions and cooked potatoes, a salad, a cappuccino and some apple strudel.  A little extravagant certainly, but I want to try the traditional cuisine and I didn't really eat breakfast or lunch and was pretty hungry.  I'm not sure what I was expected of apple strudel, but it was rather underwhelming in my eyes.  The dough was a sort of cross between pie dough and phyllo, more thin and light in color, filled with diced apples, baked in cinnamon and nutmeg.  I would like to try it somewhere else and see how it compares with tonight's experience.  The one downside to my dining experience was that I foolishly sat in the smokers section, because I didn't know that there was an alternative.  The smell was offensive and while I gradually got used to it, it really detracted from my dining experience.  Next time though, I'll know to ask and in the event there is no alternative, I will find another place to eat.

Vienna is lacking in guided walking tours and there are none I could find that occur in the wintertime.  I'm rather disappointed, because I think that would be a lot of fun.  Viennese history is rich and the city has some incredible sights to be seen, all primarily located in the historical district.  A business opportunity for someone, I hope.

Anyway, tomorrow is going to be busy.  Hopefully I will sleep better than I did last night.  I had a horrible dream and it was sad to wake up and know I couldn't call or hug Kevin.  Oh well, another couple weeks and I will be back in Seattle with him!  In the meantime, it's bed for me.  Gute Nacht!

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