Happy Valentine’s Day!
We had an easy morning that started with a breakfast of cornflakes, bologna, cheese, bread, juice, coffee and tea. The kids were a bit surprised by the warm milk, but it didn’t stop them from clearing through the food. While the kids were eating, I read them emails and messages from home, and I think it really brightened their day.
At 9am, we climbed onto the bus and headed to the Schönbrunn Palace, royal palace of the Habsburgs. We toured the inside of the building first, with Bonnie providing excellent information about the architecture, art and history, as well as an overview of the Habsburg family history. He spoke a great deal about Empress Maria Theresa, who Austrians regard as the best ruler ever to have graced Austria. We even stood in the very room that JFK met with Krushov days before the Cuban Missile Crisis began. The kids were in awe of the splendor and detail of the art, especially the hand-woven tapestries that covered many of the walls.
After the tour, we headed out to the grounds and explored the garden area. Alas, nothing was in bloom because of the winter, but it was still an impressive sight. Back on the bus, we began a tour of Vienna. As we drove throughout the city, Bonnie pointed out historical sites and buildings, and continued to tell us about Austrian history. It is phenomenal how much has happened here! It was really neat to see the kids connecting what they were hearing with their prior knowledge.
We then stopped in the heart of Vienna, and the kids explored the city on their own. Kendra, Sandy (Matt’s mom) and I set off to find food. After a filling meal of bratwurst and pommes frites (French fries), we headed back to St. Stephen’s to spend more time exploring the inside of the Cathedral. We were able to visit the chapel area and fully explore the inside of the church. Most of the kids climbed the 426 stairs in the tower to catch a glimpse of the city. Having done that on our last trip to Austria, Kendra and I were content with just exploring the details on the stonework down below.
Our next stop was a local café where Karl Marx spent his time. Kendra and I had Apple Strudel, and Sandy had a fancy torte that looked amazing! We also had cappuccinos and mochas and spent the next two hours people watching while sipping our drinks. It was a great way to warm up from the cold. Snow began falling, but it was just a dusting and very pretty to watch.
When we felt warm and rejuvenated, we headed to an exhibit of Georges Braque’s work at the Bank Austria Kunstforum. A contemporary and rival/friend of Picasso’s, Braque is a lesser-known contributor to the cubist movement. We enjoyed the visit very much – so much so that we were late to our meeting point, much to the amusement of all the kids!
Dinner was spent in a small local restaurant in the lower dining room. The room was beautifully covered in wood, with tiles on the upper portion of the walls. We feasted on tomato soup, bread, crepes filled with meat and cheese, and salad. Marc shared the bread he’d bought for just 1 euro at the outdoor market. It was the round kind sold in ancient times, so naturally I asked him if he’d checked the size of it against the wall of St. Stephen’s to make sure he hadn’t been cheated! Dessert was a crepe filled with a nut paste and smothered in chocolate and whipped crème. Needless to say, there were no complaints!
After dinner we had quite an adventure getting to our next stop. Despite a bit of confusion, we all ended up at our destination- a small chapel. We enjoyed a fabulous concert performed by the Imperial Orchestra. It was a great show, and included classical music by Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, and many more composers. There were also acts that included opera and ballet. It was a very entertaining experience, and really gave the kids a Viennese musical experience!
We traveled by subway back to the hotel, and finally settled into bed around midnight. Tomorrow we are up at 6am. Out first stop will be the Mathausen Concentration Camp, followed by an afternoon in Salzburg, and dinner in Munich.