Thursday, June 20, 2013

This Isn't Really a Vienna Beef, but Too Much Imperial Beauty Can Be a Royal Pain

You may need to turn the volume up on this post because my dogs are really barking.

But while I can say that pain from the soles of my feet and up my legs is enjoyable, it's a pretty standard barometer of a tourism day well spent. 

On pretty much every day on this trip, and basically all others that involve a great deal of walking--even if largely just within museums--I exhaust myself to not wanting to take another step by time I go to bed, and hope to have recuperated sufficiently by morning to do it all over again.

Actually, as I have started writing this post, I am not yet in bed but at the Kursalon, waiting to hear a classical musical concert featuring works of Johann Strauss and Mozart. It seems like a very Viennese thing to do, although I would guess everyone else here is also a tourist.

And walking three flights of stairs to the concert hall wasn't all that much fun.

But though I take being worn out as a good sign, I'm not certain that two days of touring palaces of the Hapsburg Dynasty--Austria's rulers for 600 years until 1918--has offered a high enough ratio of enjoyment had vs. energy sapped.

Which isn't to say that I haven't enjoyed Vienna. The number of truly breathtaking sights I've seen--and photographed, except in the palaces--would attest otherwise.

If fact, or at least cursory opinion, I don't think any city I've ever been to has offered this much overt grandeur.

OK, it's intermission at the concert. It sounds nice, with about a 12-piece ensemble accompanied by a couple opera singers--to sing Mozart arias--and a couple of dancers who perform to Strauss waltzes.

But it's sweltering in here. How can they corral the tourists with hawkers around the city--I paid €42 and that was supposedly a discount--and not have any air conditioning, ceiling fans nor even some open windows. Same thing happened last night at the opera house, where I saw a ballet. Or more correctly, 2/3 of a ballet for which I was half awake and could only see half of the stage.

Part of the point I was getting to is that Vienna, at least for tourists, seems like a city stuck in the long ago. This makes for pretty buildings, but how about some A/C for the tourists? I don't have any in my hotel either; at least I have a fan there.


I'm now back at the hotel and it's not too hot here, but the second part of the concert remained boiling. And I even tried stopping into an open restaurant I saw;in there too it was sweltering so I didn't bother.

You would think a city whose main tourist attractions are based on glorious excess would do a better job with basic creature comforts.

Anyway after going to the Hofburg palace yesterday and learning more than I probably needed to know about Emperor Franz Joseph and his posthumously mythologized wife Elizabeth a.k.a. "Sisi,"--something of an Austrian Princess Diana of the 18th century--today I went to the Habsburgs summer palace, Schonbrunn, located all of 10 minutes away (by subway).

I probably didn't need to go to both palaces (and I'll be going to a third one tomorrow), but they seem to be the prime tourist attractions by common consensus. I can't deny that there was certainly majestic beauty to be seen at both of--the Schonbrunn especially has  luxurious gardens--but I guess my point is that they wore me out without exciting me all that much.

More up my alley was the Kunsthistorisches Museum, a regal and ornate art museum with an outstanding collection, including masterworks by Raphael, Vermeer, Velazquez and others of a Renaissance ilk. I spent two leg weary hours there yesterday after the Hofburg palace, but at least what I saw  excited me enough to keep my energy up. 

Today before going out to Schonbrunn on the metro "the U," I really enjoyed just walking around central Vienna on the way to the magnificent St. Stephen's Cathedral. I wound up meandering around a good bit and saw another great church--St. Peter's--and went to the famous Café Demel to see how their Sacher torte compared to Cafe Sacher's. 

I also stopped at Buffet Trzésniewski, but a charming classic little place that has an assortment of finger sandwiches. I'm sorry I didn't take an iPhone photo to show on Flickr as the sandwiches and the shop are hard to exactly explain. But it was pretty cool and I liked it.

So it isn't like visiting palaces is all I've done in Vienna, and the one tomorrow--Belvedere--includes an art museum with a masterpiece by Klimt ("The Kiss").

Let's hope my legs hold up.

I check out in the morning and at 6pm catch a three hour train to Budapest. I think I have Wi-Fi there too, so until then, to quote Billy Joel "When will you realize Vienna waits for you."

Especially if you like palaces.


I meant to mention that on my way back to my hotel after the concert, I noticed that at the opera house they were showing--as I guess they always do--the opera that was going on within, upon an external screen. So while I couldn't get a ticket to the opera--Capriccio by Richard Strauss--I was able to see Renée Fleming sing an extended aria. 

But it's good to be off my feet and in bed. Good night whatever time it may be where you are.

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