Last night we arrived in Vienna at about 7 pm. As we were standing in line for a Bankomat in the train station in Vienna, we literally bumped into our roommate from Prague. Derek did not have a plan for a hostel, so we told him to follow us to our hostel where surely he could find a room. Surprisingly, there was no room for any of us, so we had to walk around the block to another hostel. We were shocked to find that for a few Euros less than we were expecting to spend, the three of us were able to split the most beautiful room we have been in yet. There are ceiling to floor windows, a sitting area, a huge couch (Derek’s bed), and our own bathroom! The owner is a man from Iraq who has lived in Austria for the past 15 years working to become a pharmacist. Derek was pleased to have a place to stay, Jen was happy about the internet connection in our room, and I was overjoyed to be in Vienna.
Today we woke to the lulling sound of rain pouring down outside our window. One look told us that the sky was thick with clouds and rain. It poured nonstop all day. I will not bore you with the details, but we were wet and soggy all day. We started with a quick tram ride to the city center. Our first stop was the Opera House, and then to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The Opera House was not open for tours yet, and the Cathedral was closed for mass. This was certainly proving to be a slow start in the rain, but we were not deterred. We took a short side trip to St. Peter’s Church. The inside was richly decorated with high arches, dark paintings with gold frames, and detailed marble work in rich red and dark black marble. This was truly a tribute to the high Baroque architecture. There were two alters flanking the main alter containing glass coffins with skeletons dressed in the style of the period. Their bodies were propped up so that we had a full view of the skeletons. Creepy.
We moved from the church to the Albertina. The Albertina is an amazing museum complete with many of the greats, but unfortunately, we will not have time to peek inside, as it was closed today. Instead, we ate a delightful lunch underneath the Albertina in the Augustinerkeller Tavern, which has operated since 1857. The walls were all exposed brick and curved to create a cave feeling, especially with the addition of dim lighting and crude wooden benches. This tavern was a special favorite of my Grandfather’s, so it was nice to have some gulash in a tribute to him.
Back to St. Stephen’s, we were able to get a view of the Gothic style architecture and its stark contrast to the baroque cathedral we had seen only a few hours earlier. The tall vaulted callings created a feeling of complete dominance, just as the church had originally intended. It was easy to see how the church could use architecture to control the masses. The dark halls and enormous columns created a sense of total order. Jen and I, in our never ending quest to climb all towers, headed up the 343 steps of the south tower. Derek was a good sport every step of the way. On step number 313, there was a gate that blocked us from going any further because of construction. We could not have been more disappointed. There were only a few small peephole windows in a tiny gift shop 300 steps up the tower. After only a short while, we headed back out into the rain and cold.
The wind started to really pick up at this point, and we decided that coffee was the perfect answer to our rainy day. We found a cute little shop where we sat and ate apple strudel, while drinking espresso and playing cards. This was just the break we needed.
We left in a bit of a rush because we were off to the theater. We bought tickets to a Mozart concert in the Musikverein-Goldener Hall. The hall was gilded floor to ceiling in gold paint. All portions not covered in gold seemed to be draped in heavy red velvet or strung with flashing crystal chandeliers and wall sconces. The concert was all Mozart capped with two Strauss waltzes. All of the musicians were wearing period clothing and wigs. We had standing room tickets, but in true Bauer style, we moved into vacant seats on the main floor. The concert was comprised of your typical Mozart buffet, including short arias and light passages of the Magic Flute. What a great way to spend a night in Vienna.
Back out into the rain, we jumped in a tram and headed back to our little dry heaven. Jen and Derek currently sit playing more cards, while the rain steadily drops onto the trees outside our window. Tomorrow we will travel to Schonbrunn Palace, visit my grandfather’s synagogue, and eat dinner with Erika Haules.