Sunday, June 8, 2008

Vienna, Austria

My trip to Vienna started on Friday afternoon as I was leaving Budapest. I decided to take the train (since you know my love of train travel!). This train was different than any other I had been on before. It had little compartments with 6 seats in each compartment. It was really kinda cool! I was able to get on an earlier train than my reservation, so I did not have a reserved seat. As I walked down the hallway trying to find a compartment (and company I was willing to be with for 3 hours), I wondered into one compartment with 2 guys. Come to find out, these guys were from Belgium (one from Brussels and the other from Ghent). How ironic!! Anyway, it was an enjoyable ride as they filled me in on things in Brussels and Belgium that I had not experienced yet and have now added to my list!

My tour of Vienna started on Saturday morning. The whole city still seemed so royal. The buildings were huge and and gorgeous. The streets and sidewalks are spotless and sparkling. I found myself asking, "Who lived here again and what did they do?" The Habsburg dynasty lasted 630 years (from around 1288 to 1918). Through marriage they basically acquired all of Europe at one point. The famous Marie Antoinette came from this family. It seems like their favorite emperor and empress was Franz Joseph and Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie (also known as "Sisi").

My first stop was the Schloss Schonbrunn palace, home of the Habsburg's. It reminded me a lot of Versailles, maybe just as big and just as extravagant. The Schonbrunn still has a lot of original furniture and personal items belonging to Franz Joseph and Elisabeth. As you finished one room and thought there couldn't be anything better, you walk into the next and start gawking and babbling all over again. Unfortunately, I couldn't take any pictures inside so you'll just have to see it for yourself some day. It is amazing.
My breakfast buddy...
Apple strudel is the must-have dessert in Vienna! It was fantastic!
After Schonbrunn, I headed to the Holfburg Palace complex. Today, the former private apartments of the imperial family in the Imperial Palace are open to tour. Emperor Franz Joseph and his Elisabeth lived here with their children and the entire royal household. I am a little confused why they lived in Holfburg as well as Schonbrunn, but maybe one was the country home and one was the city home. Anyway, from this location they represented the realm of the Habsburg and directed its politics. Included in the tour was a ridiculous collection of court silver and china. I now understand what a butler pantry really means. There were several rooms used to store forks, plates, etc. It's something that has to be seen to really understand.
The utensil collection! Wow, think there was enough!?
Only one of MANY china choices!
Check out this slightly large and ridiculous centerpiece! This is only 1 half of it...yes, there was more!
Only part of the silver collection they used for a casual dinner...
Next I was off to the Sisi Museum, which tells the story of the Empress Elisabeth (nicknamed Sisi). That was very interesting and helped me enjoy what I saw in the apartments after. She was apparently always on a diet and had exercise equipment in her dressing room (it's still there). She was killed by a nail file (stabbed in the heart) in 1898 at the age of 60. Sisi's story is really fascinating.

After Holfburg, I had tickets to a performance at the Spanish Riding School to see the "dancing horses". The best way to describe it is a ballet with horses. The room was like a ballroom with a sunken floor covered with a carpet of dirt. I thought no one took better care of their dirt than in Major League stadiums, but let me assure you that they could learn a thing or two from these guys. It was immaculate - it was hardly a room for horses. They use Lipizzaner horses, which as they age turn pure white. They are beautiful.
So, at this point in my day I had covered a lot of ground and saw most of the must see things in Vienna. As I was walking around the city just taking it all in! Then, I ran across a movie theater with a sign outside saying "Sex and the City"! If you know me well, you know that I LOVE the show Sex and the City and have been dying to see the movie! I walked in and asked when the next show was the guy told me in 5 minutes! Perfect!!! I said, give me a ticket and I sat myself down and saw a FANTASTIC movie!!!
Seeing the movie just made a perfect day even better! What a great memory!

Since I saw everything I wanted to see on Saturday, I spent most of Sunday just walking around the city and enjoying the view! Like I said before, Vienna is beautiful and it was nice to walk around and take it all in! German is the language of Vienna and actually called "Wien" in German. Here are a few pics from my walk!

Beautiful architecture!
Vienna Opera
Neues Rathaus (Town Hall)
Euro 2008 was being hosted by Austria and Switzerland this year so they were getting ready for the big event. By the way, Euro 2008 is a MAJOR soccer tournament...nope, I had no idea what it was until I asked!
Part of the Holfburg Complex
I told you the streets were pristine!Click here to see all my pictures from Vienna.

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