Saturday, November 24, 2007
The third stop in my trip was Vienna, Austria. I arrived early in the morning and had a little while to wait before the reservation counter opened, so I enjoyed a few coffees/lattes near this window that gave me a great view of the sunrise over Vienna. Unfortunately, that was some of the only sun I saw all day! Where I had had snow in Munich, Vienna chose to grace me with horizontal rain! It didn't matter, though, because there were always stores or buildings to hop in and tour to escape the weather, and the entire day was fantastic.
Vienna fit perfectly with my pre-conceived definition of a "European City." It's been modernized, of course - but it still retains so much of that European quaintness (quaintity?) and charm. And even though there are businesses, and there are events and things going on - the city moves gracefully. Which is good, because the previous night's activities in Munich had me moving a little slow. I never felt rushed or frantic in any part of the city, and loved just being able to wander (usually with my neck craned up!) and enjoy the city. Billy Joel had it spot on - Vienna waits!
I saw quite a few things in Vienna, but it was all on my own. There were no fancy free tours that I managed to find, so I just used my pre-printed literature and went. I did learn, while I was there, that it is the home of the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! It's a very large city - I chose not to utilize the buses or rail system so that I could see more of the city - but let me tell you, that meant a lot of walking!
One of my most important destinations, though, was the river that cuts right through the city: The Beautiful Blue Danube! There are bridges and walking paths all over, so I walked along the river for a while and stopped for a few photos.
After the Danube I set in for some heavy-duty sight-seeing. I got to see Peterskirche, the Stephansdom (below), the Hofburg Palace Complex, and much much more! This is a shot of the Stephansdom and its famous roof - made of over 200,000 individual tiles all arranged in crazy geometric patterns. The roof itself is so steep that it is kept clean just by the fast-running rain water, and snow rarely ever sticks to it.
The Stephansdom had some of the best - or at least most striking - external architectural design of any place I've seen yet. This is a close-up of the arches right outside the main entrance. Many churches have parts that are beautifully decorated like this, but literally the entire building was covered with this stuff! Plus it's got a really interesting past - which you can learn all about in my captions!
I don't think I can emphasize enough how beautiful Vienna was. I'm sure I missed a lot (woops, guess I'll have to go back some day!) but it was still fantastic. Did I mention the shopping? Street after street after street of stores, shops, boutiques, etc. I definitely bought a pair of new boots - love them! And I also love the Eastern European prices! Now I will admit, they are higher than what I'm used to back home (it's still Europe) but they were much lower than English prices! It was so much fun wandering through the different stores (every single one had some little Mozart trinket!).
Vienna also marked the half-way mark in my week-long trip. I remember sitting down at one point and realizing that. They often say that these types of trips - maybe I should call it a pilgrimage... - anyway, they say that these trips can be very powerful, perhaps even life-changing. Well I most definitely learned a lot, about the world, about traveling - and yes, even myself. It's funny how that can happen... In the 17- and 18-hundreds, wealthy families would send their children on "The Grand Tour" - a right-of-passage type of learning experience. These kids would spend months and possibly even years traveling around Europe, staying with family friends (usually Royalty) and learning about language, arts, architecture, and life in other "civilized" nations. When they returned home they were considered adults - complete with a worldly education and an understanding of the role they must now take on. It wasn't a trip of many months - not even one month, at that - but I think this journey has been very much like a Grand Tour for me. I guess we'll have to wait to see what any long-term impacts may be!
I had decided to skip Zurich and head straight to Paris from Vienna (in the interest of sleep!). My train left Vienna relatively early, but I was stuck in a pretty crammed 6-person seats-only cabin for three hours. There wasn't a lot of room for anything, but I managed to fall asleep sitting up (pretty sure my jaw was hanging wide open for part of it!). At 9:00 p.m. (in Munich) I switched to another train and fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit my pillow.
Posted by Christine Zani at 3:22 PM