Walking, Falling and Soothing
Dec 16, 2018
Taste of Christmas Walking Tour (am) , Schonbrunn Palace(pm) and Klosterneuburg Abbey Concert (evening)
Today was going to be a massive day. We had decided to go on a morning walk (3 hours) of the center of Vienna and take in some 4 of the Christmas markets with samples of food and gluvein at three of them. Back to the boat for a quick 1 hour lunch before a coach to Schonbrunn Palace then back for a light dinner and 1.5 hour break before another coach to the concert than back by 10.30 for supper. That’s from 8.45 till 10.30. That meant I was going to have to wait till Monday to complete my Saturday’s blog and find the time for this one as well: It’s now 5.00 am Monday and we are about to dock in Durnstein.
As we traveled into town yesterday, the guide explained that the they have a strange concept of law / regulations in Austria. For example, we passed “Grow Shop”. It’s a retailer of marijuana plants. The entire street front windows were unshuttered and on display was around 30 meters of plants under heat lamps. The laws regarding the entire operation are in her words “a little bit yes, a little bit no”. You can buy plants, but not let them flower. In the privacy of your home, you can use them. The staff can sell them to you, but not advise on how to grow and use them to get high. The staff can however sell you books that do tell you!
Other interesting information. Austria has a population of 8.5 million, 1.8 of whom live in Vienna. They have the second highest GDP in Europe, provide several hundred thousand public housing apartments, provide public transport for 365Euro per annum (Yup, a euro a day for use of train, tram and bus) and have a very clean city with little evidence of homelessness.
Uniworld guides always seem to give you information you don’t get from guide books. In the course of the morning, she was regularly pointing out buildings and apartments in which Mozart had lived or written a certain piece of music. It was all contributing to the final conclusion that Mozart was always broke and moved repeatedly. It wasn’t that he was poorly paid, it was because he had extravagant taste in clothing (a dandy like me???) and he was an inveterate gambler. Even his eventual demise wasn’t a result of a major disease and through the neglect of the Viennese, it was because blood letting was the common treatment for fevers and he succumbed to his infection in his weakened state.
The highlight of the markets was the “Fruit Cake”. Well, the culinary highlight. We were amazed at the cost of the decorations on sale. Wonderful glass baubles to hang on your tree for 20 euro plus. Seriously, you’d want to attach very carefully out of the way of wagging dogs tails and kids hands, and it would cost close to $1,000 to decorate a tree.
Footsore, we returned to the boat for lunch and a quick turnaround to Schonbrunn Palace. 1,200 rooms in the palace, however we visited only the Imperial rooms. A dozen or so rooms, some public others private. Marquetry flooring like no other flooring I’ve ever seen. Not timber in geographic patterns but artwork in timber. Rooms with walls made of lacquered artwork. A bed the size of a double king size with elaborate embroidered canopies and covers that was only used to introduce mother and child to the nobles for one night. That’s a ceremonial bed, that among others, Maria Theresia used on 16 occasions over 20 years to introduce her newborn children. We lost track of the Hapsburgs inbred lineage, but apparently another of the women gave birth to 23 children.
Despite the fact that the Austro-Hungarian empire was created through the marriage of Hapsburgs to princes and princesses, kings and queens all over Europe, they inter bred to maintain the familial loyalty to such a degree that eventually the male line died out.
While inside the palace wasn’t as crowded as most we have visited over the years, at 59 euros a head, we weren’t surprised. Outside however it was heaving. Possibly the largest of the Christmas Markets occupied half the courtyard which is possibly 100 m x 100 m. Ches decided she’d rather have a chocolate and apple strudel at the café while I ventured around to the back of the palace to photograph the gardens.
As I worked my way through the crowds returning from the gardens, there was more and more snow and ice among the gravel paths. I identified a spot in the gardens which would give me the best vantage point to photograph the palace and gardens, and headed in that direction. The next minute I hit the ground as if poleaxed. I went down face forward, ripped a hole in my sleeve and my right arm through three layers of clothing, jarred my right shoulder and bruised my hip. I struggled to crawl to more firm ground before someone ran across to help me back on my feet. I still took some photos before returning to the café, only to find that Ches couldn’t be bothered queueing to get in.
Outside on the street, we looked down the lines of buses and the 40 or so palace apartments that are now rented as housing (nice if you can get it). No sign of the bus, so we waited patiently for the others to join us for the trip back to the boat.
A hasty light dinner and then back on the bus for a trip out of town to a monastery where we would get to see the most ancient of enameled alter pieces (kinda like a triptych ). In the original dining room, we also had a private concert. 7 musicians and two singers from the Vienna Opera company provided a concert of works by all the famous composers of Vienna. So much better than the many concerts being performed for tourists throughout Vienna, these were fine musicians and they were worth standing ovations.
After a 20 minute run back to the ship, they had a supper set up for us. As the guide explained, a famous sausage was invented in the region, however the butchers name was unknown, so they called it a “Frankfurter”. In Frankfurt they faced the same problem, so called it a “Weiner” (Vienna is called Wein in Austria). The Americans just called it a “Hot Dog”
At 10.30 we retired to our room, me with a snifter of Grand Marnier.