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The Royal Imperial Habsburg’s ruled the Holy Roman Empire and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They were industrious, hard working, generally frugal and duty-bound. Emperor Franz Joseph said, “When you have worked until you are exhausted, you have had a good day.” He practiced what he preached, waking at 4 AM for morning prayer and then working 16 hours straight. He slept in his grand palaces on a hard iron framed bed in simple circumstances.
As we toured the Schloss Schönbrunn, the Imperial Summer Palace, we walked through beauty and history. Gold and white rooms with huge chandeliers and porcelain fire stoves, with beautiful paintings of Habsburg historic events and family members went on without end. After all, there are over 1,400 rooms in the palace complex. Silk wall-coverings and Belgium tapestries adorned others. The magnificent ballroom with frescoed ceilings and crystal glass mirrors held many important world events, including the meeting of JFK and Premiere Khrushchev in the 1960s. Empress Maria Theresa married off her daughters to secure the Habsburg reign. One, Marie Antoinette, died at the guillotine during the French Revolution. The Empress said that she only hoped that the daughters would do their duty, take care of their husbands and save their souls–whether they were happy or not did not matter. The Habsburg reign came to an end at the conclusion of World War I, since the Empire was a part of the defeated Axis powers. All the palaces became state museums.
The exterior gardens of the Schönbrunn are gigantic and spectacular. A hedge and flower maze surrounded by a long arbor adorn one side of the palace while the opposite side hosts a rose arbor and garden with fountains. The rear gardens reveal magnificent flower design plantings lined with statuary and sheered hedges. Fountains dance in the gardens overseen by the amazing Gloriette, a white marble fountain with statuary at the base rising up to a masterful building silhouette on the hill above. Truly, this is one of the most wonderful gardens in the world.
Kathy and I are proud of our ability to maneuver with public transportation. Today, without map or help, we moved through Vienna like pros.
WEG – Sunday, September 27, 2015
We arose late and lollygagged for awhile, then Kathy said she was going to take a nap. She slept another 3 1/2 hours. That kind of put a hole in the day, so we called family and spent time talking. On a long trip, there comes the time to take time off from all the adventures, and our comfortable apartment was a wonderful place to take a respite. Eventually, as evening approached, I said, “I’m taking off my pj’s and dressing to go out for a walk,” and that is what we did.
The air was fresh and clean, the temperature perfect at 55 F. We were surprised with the large number of people out in the evening air. We strolled past magnificent government buildings brightly lit since Vienna is the national capitol. Other historic buildings and fountains came into view as we followed the Ringstrasse, or ring road, that ties the inner core into a whole. My health app on the phone was ringing happy tones as I piled up the steps on our invigorating walk. Vienna is beautiful by night!
As we tended homeward, we stopped into a nice coffee caffe for a light evening meal and some sachertorte, a traditional Vienna dessert. It was not only a lazy day, but a healthy one at that.
WEG – Saturday, September 26, 2015
Our journey to Vienna brought out the sweater. It became cooler the closer we came to the capitol of Austria. It felt like a winter day in Texas, around 45 F with a light rain in a light breeze. Huddling inside the grand St. Stephen’s Cathedral while the organ played felt exactly right. It was dark inside and the stained glass windows were bright with color. The light on the golden altar gave a shimmering effect. In spite of the massive size of the room, it felt cozy and warm. We ducked into a cozy restaurant in the early evening for a wonderful meal. The dark paneling and close tables filled with people was just right for the weather. The waiter told us what to eat because it was cold outside–hot skillet meals with fried potatoes and spaetzel with bacon and eggs. It was, in fact, just right.
We had some interesting experiences today. Getting to Vienna, I was surprised that we were getting off at the West Bahnhof, since we always go to the Hauptbahnhof (main station). Our apartment was in the city close to most sites and not close to the West Bahnhof. We ended up needing to take an underground train and a tram to get close to our lodging. (We could have taken a taxi, but I am sure it would have cost $30 because of the distance and the U/tram tickets cost us $3–I am not good at spending more than necessary, especially when it is a challenge–I don’t tend to stress when on an adventure.) Amazingly, with the help of friendly Viennese, this trip was quick and a piece of cake.
Getting into our apartment was another story. Our directions were not complete–we found the apartment, but we did not know how to get inside. Finally, I got someone to answer a phone and the person said, “Why didn’t you push buzzer 42?” Our directions said nothing about buzzer 42! We were led to our beautiful and spacious apartment and given keys. Yeah! The Rathaus (city government) spire is right outside our fifth floor (yes, there is an elevator) window. EXCEPT, after walking to the Rathaus and St. Stephen’s Cathedral and eating our wonderful meal, my key got stuck in the big front door to our apartment building. Wonderful, helpful people tried to help us get the key out to no avail. You can’t just leave a key in the main door of an apartment building, can you? “NO,” Kathy said, “I’m not sleeping down here all night!” I finally got “Buzzer 42” to answer the phone. “You must have positioned your key wrong; it goes perpendicular to the earth to pull it out.” Sure enough, turning my key 90 degrees until it was perpendicular to the ground allowed it to be pulled out of the latch easily. I was so very thankful that German-speaking Buzzer 42 knew the word perpendicular. WEG – Friday, September 25, 2015