jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 83 [22 Apr 09] – Vienna

Posted in Vienna by jn82 on April 23, 2009

For the first time in many days, we actually got up early this morning to do some sighseeing. This was in part motivated by the fact that the morning exercise at the Spanish Riding School was held from 10am – 12pm, and tickets were only available on a first come first served basis. The Spanish Riding School has its roots dating back more than 400 years, when Spanish horses were brought to Austria for breeding. The famous graceful Lipizzaner horses are a cross of Berber and Arabian stock with Spanish and Italian horses. They are born with dark coats that turn white only between the ages of 4 and 10. In addition to being beautiful, they are also the world’s most classically styled equine performers. During the regular performances, the horses perform their “airs above the ground” dressage to the music of Johann Strauss or a Chopin polonaise in the baroque, chandeliered 18th century hall. Unfortunately these shows are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, when I would have long left Vienna by, so I took the only available and much cheaper option to see the horses. The exercise session was one of the most painfully boring experiences of the trip (except for most of the museums), as after 20 minutes or so the novelty of seeing these horses just walk around the hall and not perform any stunts wears off totally. They are beautiful creatures, but there is really not much point to sit through the whole morning exercise session like we did because we did not know that they would just be walking around. It would have been nice if we were allowed to take some pictures during the exercise, but like everything else in Vienna, photography is not allowed.

Baroque hall where the horses perform.

After a pretty boring two hours, we headed to the Hofburg Schatzkammer (Treasury), where on display are stunning collections of secular and ecclesiastical treasures of the Habsburgs. Among the collectons would be the pricess imperial regalia and relics of the Holy Roman Empire that include crowns inlaid with diamonds, rubies, peals, sapphires and other gems, as well as swords, imperial crosses, jewelety, alters, christening robes, coronation robes and richly embroided garments. All the signs were in German, so I am unsure of exactly what the name of each item is. Photography is allowed here, but the lighting is so dim that it is practically impossible to get any good photographs.

Various crowns.

Golden plate and jug.

Snake eating a baby?

The Treasury was about a seven out of a 10 on the boring scale once you had seen all the crowns. After this, we had a quick lunch and then headed over to Kunsthisorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts). We just walked around and saw the collection of coins and medals as well as the picture gallery, which contains paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, Durer, Titian, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Caravaggio and Velazquez. The coins registered a 10 out of 10 on the boring scale, but the picture gallery was nice to walk around and soak in the art.

Roof and Interior of the Kunsthisorisches Museum.

After all this, we were pretty tired and headed back to the hostel for a rest before heading out again for dinner. Dinner was just around the corner from the hostel, where I had a pork schnitzel with ham, a fried egg and cheese. For 9.1 €, it was pretty cheap considering it was Vienna and in a restaurant.

Wiener schnitzel with ham, egg and cheese.

The highlight of the day probably had to be the post-dinner activities, where we headed to Kursalon (beside Stadt park) for an evening of Strauss and Mozart, performed by the Salonorchester Alt Wien, one of the best known interpreters of Viennese classical music, with some ballet, folk dancing, waltz and opera in-between. Although the price of the ticket was 31 € for the cheapest pricing section (as opposed to 56 € for the most expensive) with concession, I still had a clear view of the stage and could see the musicians and dancers clearly. A sparkling selection of the loveliest melodies of Waltz King Johann Strauss and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, principal proponent of the Viennese classical style, were performed by the virtuoso musicians, with opera singers and ballet soloists, swinging waltzes, polkas, arias and duets making it an evening full of Viennese charm. It was a very good and enjoyable experience.

Outside and inside the Kursalon.

The Salonorchester Alt Wien and opera singers after performing a duet.

A long day which started out pretty boring ended with a high note. Off to Prague tomorrow morning.

Today’s pictures here.

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Day 82 [21 Apr 09] – Vienna

Posted in Vienna by jn82 on April 23, 2009

Another day of waking up late (this is really becoming a very bad habit), so we had an early lunch and headed to the Hofburg Imperial Palace to see the imperial apartments and the Sisi museum.  Before that, we took a quick stop at St. Stephen’s cathedral to see the landmark cathedral of Vienna.

Exterior of St. Stephens.

Interior of St. Stephens.

Shortly after, we headed to the Hofburg Imperial Palace, home of the once mighty Habsburg dynasty for six centuries until the early 20th century. We would only be visiting the imperial silver collection, the state apartments and the Sisi museum (explenation later). Unfortunately photography is only allowed for the silver collection.

We spent about an hour looking at the thousands of different plates, cups, teapots, trays, spoons etc etc which were used by the Austrian monarchy and for current day state functions. It was not just silverware, but also gold and many types of porcelain. I was pretty bored by the end of it, but overall it was relatively interesting as there were some objects which you would never imagine would be used or even displayed here.

Imperial bathing devices.

Duck squeezers, to “squeeze the juice from the bones of a duck”.

Table setting for heads of state visits.

The next stop in the palace was to the Sisi museum, dedicated to explaining the life of Empress Elizabeth, more affectionately known as Sisi. She was considered to be one of the most beautiful women of her time, and married Emperor Franz Joseph I (her first cousin) when she was only 17. Over the years, she felt very restricted by court life and was constantly depressed and longing to be free of it. She was eventualy assasinated in Geneva when she was aged 60.

After this, it was on to the state apartments where we got to see the reconstruction of the rooms used in everyday life by the Austrian royal family, namely Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth. These looked like your usual palace rooms, nothing special here.

Hofburg Imperial Palace.

We just walked around the city for a bit after the palace, then headed back to the hostel and had dinner. Going to be a pretty long day tomorrow, so hopefully I can wake up early.

Today’s photos here.

Day 81 [20 Apr 09] – Vienna

Posted in Vienna by jn82 on April 20, 2009

Jumped on the Euro-city 962 from Budapest to Vienna this morning, and the Hungarian railways train carriage was surprisingly of a very high standard, unlike the rest of the Eastern European train carriages in Slovenia and Croatia we had been on previously. It was new, clean and very spacious, almost on par with most of the Western European Inter-city trains.

Hungarian railways operated Euro-city 962 first class carriage.

Euro-city 962 after arrival in Vienna.

Upon arrival in Vienna, we only had to cross the road from the train station and we reached the hostel, what a good location. The Wombats Vienna City hostel is really one of the best ones we have been in so far. The rooms are spacious, have individual lockers and an ensuite with a very good shower. We are occupying two beds in a four bedder, and pay only around 18€ a night per bed. After we checked in, it was already around 1.30pm, so we headed to our only destination for the day, Schloss Schönbrunn, the former imperial summer residence of the Austrain royal family until they abdicated the throne in 1918.

Unfortunately photography was not allowed in the state rooms within the palace, so I am unable to show any of the 40 rooms we walked around in. The interior of the palace was one of the nicer ones we have seen on the trip so far, and the level of restoration is very high. After about an hour, we finished walking through the 40 rooms and walked around the massive and well manicured gardens which were situated at the rear of the palace building.

View from the Privy Garden.

Under the shade of the trees.

The maze.

View of Schloss Schönbrunn from the garden.

View of Schloss Schönbrunn and the city from the top of the Gloriette (panorama terrace).

The Gloriette.

View of Schloss Schönbrunn from the front.

All in all it was a pretty enjoyable experience at Schloss Schönbrunn, though it did cost 14.90€. I guess welcome back to Western Europe, welcome back to Western European prices as well.

Cool shot of the day.

Today’s pictures here.

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