June 10, 2010 Vienna Austria

5 07 2010

We woke up and talked to the reception.  We said we NEEDED to have another room.  I had no desire to sleep with a fan blowing hot air across me for another night.  We were assured that we would have another room when we came back. Also, our laundry came back while we were having breakfast.  It was a little damp, but nothing that a little hanging couldn’t fix.

Today we headed out to see Schloß Schönbrunn.  The imperial residence of of the Hapsburg family.  We took a metro to about 2 blocks from the palace.  The weather was getting hot already by 0930 when we arrived.  This was tourist mecca.  Yuck.  Everywhere you turned, there were tour buses unloading and groups of tourists filing into the palace.  We pondered for a while as to which ticket would be best for us and settled upon the “Grand Tour”  The whole thing isn’t too terribly clear about what gets you what, but we figured that with the discount of the Salzburg card that the Grand Tour would be a reasonable price and it got us the 40 room tour as well as entry into the “Gloriette” and the “Privy Gardens”.  We got our tickets and were told we’d have to check our packpacks.

“WHAT?”  With all my photo equipment in my bag, I had no desire to leave it to some part time student with a summer job to ensure that my bag would have its original contents when I returned.  I rearranged various stuff with Mrs D and managed to get my lenses into her smaller bag which WAS allowed.  Being much heavier now, I carried that bag.  It was about 10 metres later that we saw the “No photos” sign when we really sighed.  Grrr.  Another place trying to make sure it had a monopoly on its images.  It would have been nice to know BEFORE we headed out.  This kind of stuff should be listed on websites and tourist books.

We got our audioguides and began the walk through the palace.  The tour took us through the different rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Maria Theresa.  It was interesting to learn about the Hapsburg dynasty and the effect they had on all of Europe.  The rooms were lovely and the palace resembled a “poor man’s Versailles” The direct comparison was not kind to  Schönbrunn as Versailles outclassed it totally.  I think that had they not tried to be an “Austrian Versailles” it would have been better.  One serious drawback to the tour was that there were many HUGE tour groups going through.  It really made it difficult to enjoy the small rooms with groups of 20-40 people milling around you all the time.

After the inside tour we went out to see the gardens after getting back our backpacks.  Wow, was it hot.  We planned our walk up to the top of the gardens based on the availability of shade.  That’s how hot it was!  The flowers in the garden didn’t seem very bright or full.  Perhaps we were in between blooms?  There was a massive shelter being constructed in the middle of the gardens so that the view of the garden from the palace or the view of the palace from the garden was obstructed.  I’m not sure what they were building but my guess is some sort of “summer concert” area.

We walked up to the “Gloriette”, a strange sort of monument.  I’ll let the palace website describe it for you. Our “Grand Tour” included admission to the viewing platform so we figured we should go up and check it out.  We climbed up the stairs and enjoyed the slight breeze that wafted over us.  The view of Vienna was nice although the heat induced haze made photos less than spectacular.  I tried a panorama of the view.  We’ll see how it turned out.  What you COULD notice from up here was that the garden flowers had been arranged in the form of the Austrian Coat of Arms.  Cool.

We considered taking the little train back to the palace but decided that we could walk down in the shade via one of the side “alleys” in the bushes and trees.  Our walk took us down next to the zoo.  It would have been nice to visit but nobody really seemed to be too interested in that idea.  Down below the Zoo was the labyrinth(admission also included in the “Grand Tour”.  Actually 4 labyrinths.  We stopped for some cold ice cream and took a brief rest.  Mrs D and I tackled one labyrinth while the others looked on from the shade.  It’s surprisingly hard to walk through a maze when you don’t know where you are going. One maze was enough for us.  We moved on to see the Privy Garden next.

Upon arriving in the garden we were shocked to see that the first 1/3 of the garden was citrus trees.  In Austria!!!   There were lemons and oranges visible on the trees.   We walked along under ivy covered trellises that kept you shaded and cooler and afforded periodic glimpses out onto the garden.  At the far end of the garden was a viewing area where you could ascend and have a more overarching view of the garden and the palace.  The garden was very nicely kept and had a clean and very uniform design element.It had been a long morning/afternoon touring the palace.  We were now pretty tired and ready to move on.  We were headed for Hundertwasserhaus Wien.  It was a subway and a tram to get there and the neighbourhood in which we disembarked from the tram really didn’t seem like the kind of place that tourists would frequent unless lost. 

We got our bearings and headed up a few more blocks and then left into Hundertwasserstrasse. We were immediately greeted by the apartment complex.  It was multicoloured and had plants growing OUT of it.  It was really very funky.  There were strange ceramic inlays that tracked along the building in different places and each apartment had its own cube of colour.  The building was built in 1986 and has quickly become one of the “must see” attractions in Vienna.  Apparently even the floors in the apartments aren’t flat.  In the words of the architect:

"an uneven floor is a divine melody to the feet"

Yeah.  And not being able to put a chest of drawers anywhere is a pain for the movers 🙂

The building was nice and fountain nearby was a gathering area for the large group of tourists that were there checking things out.  Of course a tourist attraction would be nothing without a cluster of tourist shops to hawk their wares to you after you have seen the sites.  The group shopped for a while and I rested.  Walking around in this hot weather was really dragging me down.  I found a small shop that sold 2L of Ice Tea for 2 Euros. At that relative deal (most places 300ml of Coke was costing 2 Euros!) I snapped it up and worked at replenishing the liquids I’d sweated off at the palace.

Now that our various “out of town” visiting was complete, we returned to the center of the city.  We got off the metro at our usual stop, Stefansplatz. The cathedral is quite lovely.  We took some more shots but I was dismayed at the fact that it, too, was under renovations.  We had passed a Swarovski store previously and it was apparently well worth the visit.  I had my doubts.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a lovely store with three floors displaying different things.  The bottom floor was the one that I found interesting – it had the actual crystal ornaments that made Swarovski famous.  They also had some really esoteric stuff that was really cool but that I couldn’t really imagine myself owning.  Pictures of crystal don’t quite do them justice unfortunately.

The other item on our list of “must do” items was to visit Sacher Cafe.  While the other three headed directly to the cafe Mrs D and I dropped in on the info center to get our Budapest Train tickets.  Finally the ticket system was working.  Wow – it’s close and cheap. Only 2.5 hour train trip would bring us there.  Enough about the boring train stuff – back to the food! Some of us had been to the Sacher Cafe in Salzburg but we were going to go to the Vienna one so that we’d all have the chance to visit the Sacher Cafe.  While apparently the Vienna Sacher Hotel was the original, we found the one in Salzburg to be more “high end”.

Vienna

Salzburg

  • Seat yourself
  • Please wait to be seated
  • Tourist in T-shirts and shorts
  • Older local folks dressed for afternoon tea
  • Lively , almost boisterous
  • Quiet, refined – you could hear the pages of a newspaper turning
  • Staff: Friendly and cheery.
  • Staff: Friendly but in a formal way.
  • Atmosphere – cheap
  • Atmosphere – old school rich.

The food was quite excellent but we were disappointed (or more specifically Francis was disappointed) that they didn’t have Kaiserschmarren.  The Ice Coffees sure helped though!

We split up again – Mrs Dan and I were going to go back to the hotel and rest (I was going to catch up on some blogging) and Francis, Maggie and Iris were heading out to the Secession museum.   I can’t vouch for what they did but I can tell you that we were happy to spend a bit of time moving into a new room with FUNCTIONING air con!!  I got the laptop set up and the the Live Sync was busy syncing again.   The rest in the cool air conditioning did us wonders. The temps had gone up to 35C and it FELT like it! We had until about 1800 to rest as we were going to meet for dinner down on the Naschmarkt street.

We had doddled a bit in the room (man that cool conditioning is addictive) and it was already 1815 when we realized we’d have to rush out to meet the others.  I brought the tripod with me as I had plans for some night photography after dinner!  We stepped out of the front door of the hotel and there were the other three!  They had been to the museum (and were a bit disappointed) and were wandering around the area with the plan to head down to the Naschmarkt but were sidetracked by some window shopping.

We stopped in a few shops near the hotel and then we headed down to the Market street together.  It’s surprisingly faster when you know where you’re going instead of wandering aimlessly 🙂

We walked up and down the restaurant zone a couple of times.  The choices were varied.  It seemed that the preference was heading toward seafood.  Of course, isn’t Vienna renowned for its seafood?? ;)  We managed to find a place that could shoehorn us into a little corner.  It was hot and the air wasn’t really circulating much so it felt hotter.  With the great luck that we had, we managed to be seated right next to a table of chain smoking business men who just kept lighting up one cigarette after another.  Disgusting habit that the Europeans haven’t got smart enough to ban from their restaurants yet.  Yeach!  When the wind DID blow, it blew the smoke right over to our table.  Sigh.

The menu items were pretty pricey.  We were wondering if we had made the right decision with the smoke and the cost of the food.  We saw a plate or two come to other people and realized that we could probably make do with 4 plates for 5 of us as the portions seemed quite large.  We had two sampler plates of seafood and one that had a tasty white fish of some sort (Hey – it was all in German!)  We managed to enjoy our meal despite the smoke and the heat.  The food itself really was quite tasty and between the sharing and large portions we also managed to enjoy the bill 😉

We were glad to get up and walk about and let the cooler evening air cool us down.  I led the group down towards the Russian Monument for some night pictures and we took a tram to Karlplatz where we caught the metro to Stefansplatz.  Stefansdom  was sitting quite gloriously lit as we came out allowing for a couple of cool night lit shots on our last evening in Vienna.

It was about 2130 when we arrived back at the hotel.  The others all went in while I had decided I was going to try to get a few shots of the Hofburg Palace with night lighting.  It was bound to be well lit.  I had seen a few postcards with it that way 😉

While out shooting, I noticed that there was a building in the distance with some beautiful spires.  I had assumed it was a church.  When I got home tonight I figured out that it was the Rathaus (City Hall).  The one scare in Vienna came this evening.  I was engrossed in getting my shots when all of a sudden a voice chimes up behind me.  I turn and see two guys and a girl eyeing my camera.  They start asking “what are you shooting with?” etc and I start to make sure I know where my backpack is (between my legs) and that I am aware of the rest of my surroundings.  It was a few minutes before I could ascertain that they were just locals that had been out having a few drinks and really WERE just trying to help the tourist get the good shot.  They turned out to be quite nice, but it was an important reminder to me that I need to keep my wits about me – particularly when shooting at night.

With my night photography adventure complete, I headed back to the hotel so that we could get everything packed.  I got home at about 2230.  Mrs D was repacking and rearranging all the goods as we’d be travelling by train tomorrow – you can’t just throw your stuff in the extra car seat :)  We went to bed around midnight.  Tomorrow we were heading to Budapest, Hungary!  Highs of 35C-38C predicted.  Yikes.

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