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Vienna, Götterdämmerung, Nussdorf

World Trip Two

Tuesday, June 9 2009: Vienna, Austria

The first day in Vienna was lovely and sunny.

The flight last night robbed us both of one night's sleep. So when we arrived at Julia's mom's hotel, and were greeted by Mary and David, I had conflicted feelings. I was so happy to see them again, but at the same time I was tired and could not think straight. I hate losing out on my precious eight hours of sleep.

As we were unable to check into our flat until 2:00 pm we were lucky that Mary and Dave invited us to breakfast, stowed our bags, and allowed us to have a shower in their hotel room. This really helped us feel a bit better; thank you Mary and David, for your hospitality.

The Stephansdom.

They are in Vienna to see Wagner's Ring Cycle. It is a rare treat to see the operas in Vienna. Part of the uniqueness is the performance of the Viennese Philharmonic, which is one of the best orchestras in the world, if not the best. The Opera House is steeped in history; beginning with Emperor Franz Josef who thought it looked like a train station, which then caused the architect to top himself in shame. We left Mary and David to their tour and arranged to have lunch with them tomorrow.

We walked the streets of Vienna in a semi dream like state; half awake and half asleep. The sun shone brightly and the air was warm which only added to our sleepiness. Vienna is famous for its coffee shops, so when we came across a Starbucks across the road from a traditional Viennese coffee shop, we thumbed our noses at the multi-national corporate entity. This worked out rather well for us, as the coffee was great and the waiter gave us a croissant for free as well; my guess is he could see how bad we looked and thought the food might help us. We continued our surreal and dreamlike walk down the ancient streets and eventually found our flat. Our goal achieved, we walked back to Mary and David's hotel, retrieved our bags, took a cab back to our apartment, and went to bed at 7:00 pm; not waking from our restful dream world until 7:00 am.

Wednesday, June 10 2009: Vienna, Austria

The interior of the Stephansdom.

After a wonderful, uninterrupted, blissful sleep we woke up refreshed and raring to go. In fact we woke up at 6:00 am. This is very early for Vienna. Also we woke up to rain; the sunshine from yesterday had deserted us. But none of these things stopped us from getting out on the streets and beginning our sightseeing.

The grand interior of the Jesuitenkirche.

We explored the Stephansdom Quarter. Following our DK Eyewitness Travel Guide we were given an informative tour filled with many superb surprises. At the Jesuitenkirche or Jesuit Church we were serenaded by a violin player while we took in the grandeur of the Counter Reformation church interior. The Catholic Jesuits were making a strong statement with this church by saying it was okay to be over the top again in your worship of imaginary sky gods.

At home with the Von Trapp family.

After our tour we had lunch with Mary and David at the oldest restaurant in the city, the Griechenbeisl. This place dates back to 1447! Many celebrities have eaten here over the years and there is a room filled with their signatures. As I looked around the walls of the room, marveling at who had been here, I saw Mark Twain's signature. It is now official, Mark Twain has been everywhere on the planet. Mary gave us lunch for Julia's belated birthday present. She also surprised Julia and me with tickets to see the final opera of the Ring with her on Thursday evening; thank you Mary and David for a lovely gift.

After lunch we joined Mary and David's tour group on a visit to the house where Franz Theodor Schubert was born. The tour group then congregated in the living room of Peter Gurt a Viennese musician and conductor. He, his wife, his three children, and two fellow musicians played various pieces of Viennese music from various composers. Peter introduced each piece before it was played which built up an interesting and informative history of the music of Vienna.

Vienna Music Video

Thursday, June 11 2009: Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods), Austria

Elisabeth of Bavaria or Sisi used to spend one whole day washing her ankle length hair in a mixture of Contac and egg yokes. Her only redeeming feature, to me, was her focus on regular exercise.

We were out sightseeing the Hofburg Imperial Palace and its surrounding areas early this morning. The grandeur of the palace is only exceeded by the opulence of the life style of its feudal lords. The Habsburg's Austro-Hungarian empire gave them a sybaritic existence and power beyond imagining. But as they were in fact mere humans like you and I they suffered from the same ailments, like greed and self doubt. The best example of this was Elisabeth of Bavaria or Sisi as she was known, the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph. She lived a somewhat tragic life that, I estimate, was mainly of her own making.

Here was a woman that had everything and yet chose to, or was predisposed to biologically, a depressive and unhappy life. It ended in tragedy as she was assassinated in a random act of violence by an Italian Anarchist. More reason to live life to the full while you can.

Brünnhilde throws herself on the flames, by Arthur Rackham.

Gotterdammerung or the Twilight of the Gods by Richard Wagner was the focus of our attention, for five hours, this evening. Loosely, the Ring, as the series of five operas is known, is the same story as the film The Lord of the Rings. Both are taken from Norse sagas. The Götterdämmerung is the final episode and closes Wanger's master works in complete destruction of the gods and all but one of the earthly players.

The main take away, for me, is that no matter how bad we screw up our lives or indeed the planet, the world just goes on without us; perhaps even better without us. It is a cheery little tail. But I was sure grateful to have been given the experience to see it in Vienna, at the State Opera House, and accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; thank you Mary and David for this generous gift.

Friday, June 12 2009: Anna Karenina the Ballet, Austria

David and Mary in front of David's namesake flower shop.

All four of us visited the Leopold Art Museum where we immersed ourselves in the art of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Schiele technique is expert but his themes are a bit dark for me. As for Klimt his work is often very large and his themes a little lighter than Schiele making his work more enjoyable.

We shared a final lunch with Mary and David in Vienna as they returned to Kent today. Thanks for spending time with us Mary and David and making our stay in Vienna more fun.

The State Opera House. If you look at the back of this photo you can see the standing room only seats. This section of the theater has been there from its opening. You could say it is a "long standing" tradition.

In the evening we returned to the State Opera House to see the Ballet Anna Karenina by Boris Eifman. He has taken Tchaikovsky's music and created a modern ballet from a classic story by Tolsoy.

The drama of the music and story were combined to construct an intense dance experience. I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, June 13 2009: Vienna, Austria

The Emperor's own personal forest.

We visited the Summer Palace or Schönbrunn this afternoon. But rather than shuffle about in the dusty rooms we decided to focus our time on the palace gardens.

We were rewarded for this decision as the sun was out in force, it was warm, flowers were blooming, and the air was thick with the scent of life. It felt good to leave the city for a while.

Schönbrunn Video

Sunday, June 14 2009: Nussdorf, Austria

One of the many Beethoven Haus.

We walked six miles through Viennese woods, vineyards, villages, and the town of Nussdorf. This town is where Beethoven used to spend his summers. So we visited several of the houses he had stayed in. Then we made the slow climb up the hill to Kahlenberg.

The walk took us through several vineyards and gave us great views of Vienna in the distance. At the summit is a private University, church, hotel, and restaurant where we ate lunch. After a short visit to the observatory at the summit we walked back. We took a different route that ambled through the Viennese woods and landed us in the little village of Kahlenbergdorf which was just a short walk back to Nussdorf; a wonderful day to end a fantastic visit to Vienna.

Goodbye Vienna Video

Trip stats

Miles Flown: 21,399

Miles Hiked: 195

Miles Skied: 2

Miles Driven: 4,152

Miles Sailed: 110


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