Just Outside Vienna
07/20/2014 - 07/20/2014 70 °F
Despite the late night, I had a lot on my agenda today and got a pretty early start. First up was going to the grocery store which was actually open when they said they would be! Great start! There is a (crappy) breakfast you can buy at the hotel, which was great for me because it meant I was the only one in the kitchen in the morning.
Scrambled eggs, broccoli and CNN? Feels like home!
After breakfast, I grabbed Arthur and planned out my day. I knew I would be spending the afternoon out at Schonbrun palace, but wanted to make the most of the morning while I was still in town. As I was planning, I heard a voice from across the lobby that I instantly recognized. It was Alex from the Mandala Hostel in Budapest. What are the chances that we not only go to the same city, but stay at the same hostel? It’s a small world, even in Europe. Also while I was planning, I saw several families pass through the lobby with little kids. They must have a bunch of private rooms here as well. That, or if you’re a family of 4 or 6, you could just take up an entire hostel room.
As I set out and crossed the bridge into the main town, I saw probably the 10th person walking with their dog without a leash. I don’t know what kind of dog training schools they have in Europe, but the dogs are incredibly well behaved. It’s more common for people to be walking their dogs without a leash than with one. And all of the dogs stay right next to their owners. It’s sort of amazing. Soon after that, I saw a cop fiddling with the electrical box for a traffic light when it hit me that in all my travels yesterday, I never saw a single cop. In Budapest there weren’t a ton, but they were definitely present. But to walk around town for over 12 hours and countless miles zig-zagging the city and never see a cop is pretty remarkable. IS it just THAT safe? A corollary to that is that after seeing a decent amount of bums/panhandlers in Budapest, I didn’t see a single panhandler during my entire day either. I wonder if those two facts are related at all.
Anyways, first on my agenda was to see a few of the beautiful monuments I passed last night but now to see them in the light of day. I was lucky to have perfect weather with just enough clouds for some beautiful shots. Here’s the Rathaus in the morning sunshine.
And the arcade that makes up the entranceway. Just beautiful.
…and me trying to take an artsy picture from the front porch
Finally the part of the Hofberg palace that has been turned into museums wasn’t especially well-lit last night. It’s too bad, because the buildings are beautiful!
The first scheduled stop of the day was at the Imperial Treasury. As you can probably imagine for a city with as rich of a history as Vienna, the collection was pretty remarkable. It’s so much easier to learn about history when you’re in the town square or the castle where it all happened!
And then is the crown he was wearing, which was commissioned by Emperor Rudolf II in 1602.
This crown is especially rare, because each king typically had his own private crown that was usually dismantled after death (usually to reuse the gems for a new crown) so this is the only one that remains. Also, the imperial mantle…
I learned a bit more about the Holy Roman Empire as well. I must have knew this at one point for AP European History, but those brain cells are long gone. The HRE had 8 electors that were the most powerful princes in the empire and would elect the new king.
The Hapsburgs were the ruling family of Vienna and later Austria. Napoleon himself actually entered the house of Hapsburg when he married Arch Duchess Marie Louise, the eldest daughter of Francis I. Forget a silver spoon…Napoleon’s son, Napoleon Francis had this cradle made of 280kg of silver. Rough life!
It was an interesting marriage…in 1804 Francis actually declared the end of the Holy Roman Empire because Napoleon was threatening and it was too weak to defend due to conflicts from within. In 1809, Napoleon defeated Austria and “got” Francis’ daughter in the peace treaty. Little Napoleon Francis was born in 1811 and soon after, the old European powers united against Napoleon. When he was defeated, it brought new power and influence to the Hapsburg Empire.
I forget what this emerald was for, but it’s the largest cut emerald in the world at 2860 karats, so I figured that was worth taking a picture of.
After the royal treasury, I headed back to St. Stephan’s. Yesterday when I bought my ticket, I got the combo ticket that was good for the tour of the church as well as a trip up both of the towers and into the catacombs. I headed up the North Tower, the higher of the two. They actually ran out of money to complete the South Tower that was supposed to be the same size as the North and instead capped it with a copper dome. The North Tower is only accessible by stairs, 343 to be exact. Not only did it give a great view of Vienna,
but also of the uniquely colorful roof of St. Stephans.
Back down on ground level, there was a lineup of horse-drawn carriages to take you anywhere you wanted in Vienna. These guys are everywhere!
I decided to save the South Tower for another day just to space out the birds-eye views, but before I left I went to the catacombs. Unfortunately, there were no pictures allowed down there. Usually that doesn’t stop me (see all of the pictures taken in the Imperial Treasury…shh…don’t tell), but we were in a small tour group that made it pretty tough. The tour guide gave the tour in German and English, switching back and forth to repeat his spiel in each room in both languages. It was sort of hilarious because he had clearly been taught English by an Irish person so it was funny to hear an Austrian guy speaking English with an Irish accent. The Hapsburgs were buried in the catacombs beneath the church. In what was apparently the tradition, their organs were removed from their bodies and put in separate urns filled with alcohol to preserve them. There was an especially large tomb for Rudolph and his wife Catherine, who founded both St. Stephens and the University of Vienna. And get this: They were married when Rudolph was 14 and Catherine was 11, and engaged when they were 9 and 6, respectively. Clearly enjoying seeing everyone wince at this fact, the tour guide assured us that this was quite normal back then since marriages were political and not about love.
Then it was on to Schonbrun palace. A main hub of the subway system is conveniently right at St. Stephans. 1 ticket cost 2.20 and I was about to buy it, when I looked into another few options and found a 2 way ticket for 2.40. I was pretty proud of myself for not falling into the tourist trap. It was a pretty quick trip to Schonbrun. Only about 20 minutes on the subway. The place is absolutely massive. I’m pretty sure Versailles (outside of Paris) is the biggest, but Schonbrun wasn’t too far behind.
They had horses here too. The driver practically posed for me!
Pictures weren’t allowed here either, so if the pictures aren’t well centered or aren’t especially straight, it’s because I had to take them stealthily with my phone.
Again with these darn fireplaces! Apparently the Hapsburgs REALLY didn’t like having to be bothered just to watch their servants stoke the fire. All of the rooms have fireplaces that were stoked from outside the room.
Here’s the office of the beloved Franz Joseph (remember him from yesterday? He was the poor guy married to “Sisi.” He awoke at 5am and worked 16 hour days. Also remember that he would regularly see up to 100 people in his office in the mornings. He became king at age 18 and died at 86, keeping this schedule throughout. You’ve gotta hand it to the guy. Probably why he was so loved by his people. He called himself the “First public servant of his state.”
At the castle they had a really adorable children’s program where the kids got a special tour and before they went, they got to put on kids clothes from the time of the Hapsburgs.
This clock was awesome because it had another face on the back that went in reverse so that it could be read in the mirror.
There was also a room dedicated to Marie Antionette, the youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, who married the heir to the French throne that became Louis XIV. Both Maria and Louis were executed in 1793 as part of the French revolution.
This is where the Royal family ate. It was common for them to eat French food at official dinners, but at family dinners, they preferred traditional Viennese such as Tafelspitz, which is boiled beef....sounds thrilling.
This is the room where Mozart first played for the Queen…at 6 years old!
This remarkable hall was clearly the highlight of the palace.
It’s essentially the Hapsburgs answer to the famous Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the magnificence of the room, but especially of the frescoes on the ceiling.
Interestingly, in 1961 Kennedy and Khrushchev met in this room to attempt a diplomatic cooling of the Cold War.
I didn’t get a very good picture of this painting, but it depicts wedding procession for one of the kings that was said to be 98 carriages long. The procession literally had to zigzag back and forth on the palace grounds so that they would all fit.
Then was the so-called Napoleon Room, because it is where Napoleon resided from 1805-1809 when he essentially forced himself into the house of the Hapsburgs.
Napoleon’s son died at the age of 21, much to the relief of the many kings of Europe who had feared him and after Napoleon was defeated had put several restrictions on him to keep him from ever attaining power.
As is probably clear from the many young marriages and marriages to Royalty in other countries, it was said that the Hapsburgs attained power and influence from strategic marriages rather than by waging wars, which is one of the reasons they were able to rule for so long. I basically stayed at Schonbrun exploring the palace and grounds until they closed the place down. By the time I got back to town and had something to eat, it was getting late and I felt that I had already gotten my fill of Vienna at night, so I stayed in at the Meninger. I was scheduled to head home in four days so clearly I had to rearrange my planned itinerary and book hostel accommodations. I was kicking myself for not doing the South Tower of St. Stephan’s when I had the chance. I decided that I would cut Munich out of my trip, having already seen much of Germany and that I would book the first train to Prague in the morning so that I could get a full two days in Prague, then leave for my last two days in Copenhagen. But as I was deciding when to leave for Copenhagen, I wanted to double check my flight details because I wasn’t sure what time I would be leaving. If it was in the morning, I wanted to get to Copenhagen earlier since I wouldn’t be able to explore on the final day, but if it was later then I would have more time on the final day. When I looked at my itinerary, I saw that my flight wasn't booked for the morning or afternoon of the 24th, but instead for the 29th. I had been monitoring flights on Kayak for this trip for weeks and I always do the plus or minus 3 days search to find the cheapest flights. For weeks, the cheapest flight was on Tuesday the 24th, but in the final days before I booked, the cheapest flight must have become the Sunday the 29th flight, but because the departure and arrival times were the same, I hadn’t noticed. Hmm. I called Norwegian, who wanted $250 for a change fee, plus paying the difference of my flight from what the flight costs now, which was another $300 or so. I guess that's what you get for booking a low budget airline. In contrast, I could change my JetBlue flight for a flat fee of 100 bucks. It was kind of a no-brainer. There are worse things than an extra 5 days in Europe! Now I decided to stay an extra day in Vienna, added back my planned 3 days in Munich and got to spend a full 3 days in Prague rather than just 2. The problem with going to both Munich and Prague from Vienna is that the 3 are basically in a triangle, so no matter where I went first, I would kind of be going out of my way to go to the other. So it didn’t really matter which I did first, or so I thought. I figured it would be easier to do Prague then Munich figuring that a train from Munich to Copenhagen would be easier since it only crosses 2 countries (Germany and Denmark) instead of 3 (Czech Republic). But, I was wrong and so glad that I checked ahead of time—clearly not usually my style! There’s actually an overnight train that goes direct from Prague to Copenhagen, but not from Munich. So after spending an hour researching Prague and planning my first day there, I had to change course and educate myself on Munich. Luckily I hadn’t booked a place in Prague yet. I was a little frustrated with the Hostelbookers website, too. I filtered by the cheapest places in Munich and found a place with a good location and decent price, then when I went to check out, the price was higher than expected. It turns out that they quote the price for the first night of your stay but the rates fluctuate every day and conveniently my second and third nights were 50% more expensive than the first. Oh well. Still not too bad in the scheme of things. With all those logistics figured out, it was late and I still had a day to check a few things off my list in Vienna before catching an afternoon train to Munich, so I hit the sack. More adventures tomorrow!