This has to be the longest I’ve ever written…But I couldn’t not write it.
I’m sorry you’re disappointed at my half-assed attempt at writing a diary especially since handwriting got progressively wretched with the cold.
This one’s for you. I hope you like it.
When my cabbie dropped off our bags at our hotel in the beautiful and welcoming city of Vienna, he said to the receptionist “Guten Morgen” and the guy replied “Schoenen Morgen!”
My jaw dropped…in this yuppie age where good morning became g’morning became morning became mornin’… someone bothers to say “Beautiful morning”!!!! I was instantly certain that I would love Austria to bits.
Austria is synonymous with beautiful baroque, and baroque is synonymous with Austria. Every building, no matter how insignificant is beautifully decorated within and without, so as not to disturb the architectural harmony. Some buildings are coloured a vibrant shade of yellow- a shade somewhere between honey and Van Gogh’s favorite- this is a reflection of more wealth and opulence on the part of the (ex)owner. So I was obviously kicked to see that my hotel was painted bright yellow.
Straats and Pleines in Amsterdam change into Strasses and Platzes in Vienna. I stayed in Taborstrasse. After breakfast at the hotel (with melk mit schokolade), the routine each day would begin with a 2 minute tram ride across the river to Schwedenplatz where are there are more bus/tram services as well as the metro, and then continuing onwards to wherever the day took us.
Day 1: Taking it all in…
Given that the hotel was bang in the middle of the city, commutes would be a breeze. We landed in the morning, had breakfast and set about on an agenda-less day-long stroll through the city. So off we went to Schwedenplatz. Walked over- hop, skip and jump- to Stephanzplatz…and lo and behold the grim, huge and incredibly ancient St.Stephan’s cathedral with many horse carriages lined up outside much like a cab queue. I’d like to say that I loved this church and that it was very beautiful because it was. BUT two minutes later we discovered a much smaller church across the road, St.Peter’s cathedral, which was absolutely stunning with gilded gold decorations and paintings and stained glass windows and what-have-you. What was even more interesting was that the facade of the church boasted of several modern paintings done in a Christian context, like a large fuschia-violet work of Christ’s forearm.
Stephanzplatz- a large lively and crowded square full of tourists, smokers, dodgy weirdo men in torn clothing, horse-drawn carriages, BILLIONS of fly-in-your-face pigeons and scores of al fresco cafes. “Fresh” white and red wines are sold on the streets from the barrel, we never got around to actually trying it. We did try Kartofellpuffers and they were quite umm… horrible.
We then walked over to Mariahilferstrasse…ahem…Viennese high street if you will. Scores of brands, multiple stores of Zara, Mango, Palmers and Hermes. No, we didn’t shop like looneys-just Mozart Kugeln (Mozart’s balls as my uncle says) and almond chocolate. We ate pizza slices. Like London, Vienna has loads of cheap doner kebab+pizza places that sell wurst, doner kebabs and half decent pizza by the slice. We also stepped in and out of few swarovski showrooms but i felt it was a little cheesy to buy crystal just because it’s austria-made. Anyway walked some more and ended up at Philharmonikerstrasse and saw the magnificient, yet somehow understated Opera House. Too tired for more, we took a tram that went around the beautiful and opulent Ring Boulevard and back to the hotel.
We stepped out later for an early dinner and discovered a delightful Gelato Cafe (I won’t take names because I don’t want it to be googled to Juice) . It’s a totally cute modern and colorful cafe that serves THE most delicious gelato I’ve ever had in the most amazing flavours possible. Biscotto was going to be my staple diet for the next 4 nights. But that’s not all.
The owner was the most Godlike man I’ve ever seen.
He looked much like Eric Bana (I know.. it’s impossible but still).. tall, broad shoulders, dark hair, dark eyes, wore a beautiful light peach dress shirt with bespoke grey trousers. N.i.c.e.b.u.t.t.
He was as dapper as dapper can be. I couldn’t look him in the eye. He was too much. I’m just a woman you know.
But I needed a spoon for my icecream and so I approached him. I raised my hand like a kid to get his attention from in front of the high counter.
“Einen moment” (or something like that) and the man smiled … if a smile could kill, his would be the one.
“Oh..Okay” *sheepish giggles*
Then he came back…
I swear on all the beauty in the world, his bitte was sweetest word spoken. I can still hear it. Frikk. Oh God.
“Oh you can bitte me whenever wherever”
No, I didn’t say that. I wish I had. *fans herself*
Think Jups think! Bitte, Ich moechte eine….fuck.. what’s the word for spoon? eine…apfelkuchen! No that’s apple pie you dingbat! You don’t even like apple pie, why do you do this to yourself?
I had to say the entire sentence in English. DRAT.
I got my stupid spoon and ran off. I was blushing a stupid shade of burgundy by then.
Day 2: The hills are alive with the sound of music, my heart wants to sing every song it hears…
The day began early for we were to see Salzburg, the lake district and Salzkammergut (salt mining region).
Mom was excited like a teenage girl waiting to see her favorite boyband- for we were going to see the Von Trapp villa and several other locations from the Sound of Music. I also happen to adore the movie to bits. What girl who was ever a sixteen going on seventeen didn’t dream of dancing with her own nerdy Rolf in a glass house while it poured outside?
And so, we took the scenic Autobahn through the Vienna woods where it was quite foggy (and spooky) for most part. We took a pitstop at Landzeit, a beautiful “raststation” where the waitresses were fat ladies in cleavage-baring long candy-striped dresses with teeny tiny white aprons. After which, we were right back on the autobahn and then onwards to salzkammergut.
What can I say? My words fail me. It was so breathtakingly beautiful…Little hills with beautiful houses with gardens full of flowers in every color imaginable. The district is full of lakes.. 76 to be precise, in every shape and size. We stopped at Attersee- the largest lake in the district and took loads of pictures. It was a bright sunshiney day and I was super excited about what lay ahead. Next came the Mondsee lake which is shaped like the crescent moon, and then Fuschl which looked like it was straight out of a postcard. Schoen and schoen-er I say!
Next stop Sant Gilken- birthplace of Mozart’s mother and absolutely adorable little town. Frankly I don’t give a rat’s ass about Mozart, much less his mother. However I did buy myself a lovely purple scarf with edelweiss print. Remember?Edelweiss, Edelweiss, every morning you meet me. We left the Bad Ischl area and went into the Salzburg district.
One little girl, in a pale pink coat, yodlay yodlay yodlay ee oo. (teeshirt actually)
The Von Trapp villa. Oh. My. God. The villa is a delightful shade of yellow and in baroque style. And it overlooks a stunningly beautiful lake with waters of the bluest blue, the same lake where the childrens’ boat capsized embarassing the Captain. On the other side of the lake is a road with trees on both sides- the same trees the children were hanging from when Captain Von Trapp returned from Vienna. Ah well, it’s a pity and no surprise that the villa is private property and not available for viewing to tourists.But whatever we saw, we loved.
The city of Salzburg is divided in two by the Salzach river- the ancient and the new. The new isn’t all that new per se. This is where the riding school and the Mirabell Palace gardens are. Or should I say the place where the children sing Do- Re-Mi and run through the shaded walkway and around the Pegasus fountain and where Maria stands at the gates and sings the song’s last note… you get the picture.
Cross over and you’re at the ancient city. The birthplace of Mozart. (Again, I don’t care about his yellow house, the city is much too beautiful to need a gimmick…it’s as preposterous as the idea of Coldplay hawking teeshirts to make money!) Anyway, Salzburg has a huge and beautiful white cathedral called DOM, the largest baroque fountain outside of Rome, a lovely town square, a HUGE fort and of course up the hill there is the Abbey of Nonberg. Equipped with a humungous Brez’l, we walked up the little road and up the little hill to see the sweet little abbey where the sisters and Mother Superior attemped to solve a problem like Maria.
Yeah and I also incurred the wrath of some pissed off God who shoved an invisible lightning bolt through my heart. See? (This also kinda sorta counts for the silly picture tag I was ordered to do by the Cowlick.)
Dinner was gelato by the way. More biscotto. He was wearing a blue shirt. Navy Blue trousers. His ass was… never mind.
Day 3: Fairy tales and castles
The buildings in Vienna are magical. They are enchanting because they make you feel like you’re frozen in time. You’re in grungy denims but really the king will be out to greet the commoners any minute. Gilded gold and white sculptures are everywhere. The agenda was all me. I had planned the day or so I thought. Because that day was full of beautiful surprises.
We took the tram from right outside the hotel to Radetzskyplatz. Hundertwasser haven.
F.Hundertwasser is definitely an architect like no other- he is genial, his work is extraordinary, his art vibrant. We first walked down to Hundertwasser haus- a real, residential building he designed that is choc-full of mosaic, fountains, trees sprouting from colorful walls and undulating floors. Next to it is Hundertwasser Village- which I regret not exploring. Walked back towards the tram station and reached Kunsthauswien- the gorgeous museum building that permanently houses art and paintings by Hundertwasser as well as other temporary exposes by other artists/photographers. His art is whimsical, spectacular and bold all at once. Genial, as the French would say. The outdoor area of the Kunsthauswien is choc full of vines that are bowing down under the weight of humungous pumpkins. The second I saw that, I knew I wanted some pumpkin. So we popped into the Kunsthauswien Cafe. And even thought we didn’t have pumpkin soup, we had a slendid lunch- Paprika creme soup with sheep cheese dumpling, and Vegetable Risotto with basil and parmesan- Bellissimo to say the least.
stars will shine, where the waters flow, where the gardens grow, that’s where I’ll meet you…
After taking the tram back to Schwedenplatz, we took the metro to Schoenbrunn. Given that we already had the four day Vienna card, transportation was easy, adaptable and cheap (free). Schoenbrunn Palace- Magnifience of the yellow kind. With giant sphinxes at the gate, the palace front is positively luminiscent and beckoning visitors to its grandeur. As we walked in, we decided to take a raincheck on visiting the queen’s boudoirs, bathrooms and such and opted for the palace gardens instead. Which are by far the largest palace gardens I have ever seen. There is one public promenade that branches into several very beautiful hedged promenades. There is also a privy garden where prized rose bushes are showcased. And as you walk further you reach a huge fountain/pond with ducks swimming around and some huge statues of Triton and other sea people (I’m guessing). As you walk uphill from here, (and it’s one bitch of a walk) you will find yourself getting more and more precious and breathtaking views of the entire city. And atop the hill, sits the Gloriette – an opulent viewing terrace with a large pond outside, another behind and a cafe on the inside. With all the grandeur, Schoenbrunn still appears un-intimidating and welcoming. You see people jogging, old people taking slow walks and kids chasing each other like they would in a normal state park. I would love to live in Vienna, if only for the opportunity to jog in the morning in a real palace.
On our way back from Schoenbrunn, we got off at another metro station- Stadtpark (City park)- a blissful and vast park with its own brook flowing through it. It was really beautiful and we took a few pictures with the auto-timer. But we were just too darned exhausted from all the walking to do any more. So after buying some peach tea at Schwedenplatz, we went back to the hotel to crash. Later of course, we went out for dinner. Gelato. But the cafe was really crowded (and he was in a grey teeshirt) so after some casual shopping around we returned to the cafe. It wasn’t crowded. And he wasn’t there. hmmphh. The sundae (with melon gelato, peppermint sauce and amarettos doused in liquer) was sinfully delish though.
Given that walking isn’t one of my favorite sports (*choke, I really shouldn’t talk about sports at all), and the fact that we had walked endless hours all round for the past three days.. we decided to take it easy on day 4. We landed up at Belvedere palace, a palace that I read was built by the prince just to house his art collection. This palace is celebrated for its Gustav Klimt collection among several impressionist as well as classical pieces. The Palace is in a matter of speaking small, but that’s like bitching about buying a “small” house to store your shoes in. It’s relative. The Kiss was obviously brilliant (the Klimt, not the Rhodin which is also brilliant by the way) and some of the still lifes by Viennese painters are nothing short of stunning.
But the general mood of art in the gallery was quite morose. Add to that the fact that this was the first cloudy,drizzly day we experienced in Vienna. Mom didn’t quite appreciate the sculptures of naked, fat women and that didn’t make me very comfortable either. And that resulted in the absolutely brutal vetoing of my proposal to visit the Lichtenstein Museum that houses the Rubens! “But mom, they’re the great masters, one must see the great masters!”
So I thought it best we stick to indisputable grandeur and decided that we head to the Hofburg Imperial Palace. This is a magnificient arc-shaped structure with a large open space in front. I can’t say that much about the Hofburg Palace because there was a large military expose of some other that was going on there and together with the damn drizzly weather, it lent the palace a grim sense of foreboding. A hop, skip and jump away from the palace, is MQ- Museumsquartier, where all the beautiful baroque museums are located. No, didn’t venture into a single one. I think mom had had enough of art and besides she is more the neo-modern abstract art types (she likes Anteprima designs). And I was gettting very tired of all the walking. So we wandered around MQ especially around the museum of natural history because it has the cutest little elephant sculture outside. MQ is also along the ring boulevard. Because we couldn’t exactly figure out which tram to take, we got into a random one, saw a good deal of the ring boulevard including parliament and other govt. buldings.
So anyway, after that we went back to the hotel, dozed off and woke up for dinner and last-minute shopping at Stephansplatz. No prizes for guessing where we had dinner- mozzarella tomato sandwiches and loads of biscotto icecream.
Next morning, we were back in Amsterdam.