Monday, April 22, 2013

Vienna: art, music, books, palaces, and delicious dessert!

At 6 on Thursday evening, Gaby and I pulled out of the bus station at Florenc, in Prague. The ride was four hours, and we hopped on the Ubahn (subway) and found out hostel--a really funky, "eco-friendly" hostel with musical instruments out and gardens with huge backgammon and chess boards--really easily. 

On Friday we started by attempting to do a self-built walking tour of the Innerestadt based off of one we'd found online, but didn't really end up sticking to it. Instead, after seeing (the outside of) the famous Wiener Staatsoper (State Opera House), we went to see the galleries at the Albertina, where we saw Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Rembrandt, and some of the work of the surrealist Max Ernst...and more. Here's Monet's signature!
After lunch (I found myself staring face to face with an entire trout...), we headed  to Cafe Sacher, home of the original Sacher-torte. It was delicious, though definitely not the best chocolate cake I've had. DD, you've still got them beat with some of your creations, I think. 
Stephansdom at night. St. Stephen's Cathedral is the seat of the archbishop of  Vienna. We kind of stumbled upon it by accident; earlier in the day we'd seen the two towers poking through the sky and assumed it must be something significant. When we were walking around all of a sudden we found ourselves in Stephansplatz, the courtyard that surrounds the church. 
The roof of St. Stephen's Cathedral, during the day.
Inside St. Stephen's Cathedral; the stained glass was very bizarre here. It seemed like it wasn't actually stained glass, and instead the windows were clear glass covered in huge sheets of colored cellophane. The colored light coming through and bouncing off various surfaces was still beautiful, though!
On Friday night, Gaby and I went to services at the Stadttempel, the Central Synagogue in Vienna. We got there a bit late, unfortunately, but it was still enough time to enjoy the voice of Cantor Shmuel Barzilai. This photo is from the second-tier of the women's section. It makes a complete ellipse, and I walked around to behind the Ark, where you can neither see anyone else nor be seen by anyone, and just listened. I think it must be one of the focii of the ellipse, because from there it sounded as if the choir was right next to me.
We went to the home of one of the Chabad families for Shabbat dinner, which was wonderful. We got to see an entirely different neighborhood of Vienna, and to enjoy delicious food with a really nice family! On our way back to our hostel, we hopped on a tram and were pleased to find out that it dropped us off at the subway station we wanted to get on at.
This is the painted domed ceiling of the State Hall of the National Library. If the ceiling alone looks like this, just imagine the rest of the library! (I know, that's probably difficult, which is why I'm including the photo below).
The center "room" of the library. It's the largest one in Austria, and contains some 7.1 million volumes.  Princeton's Firestone Library has got it beat, though: 7.3 million volumes.
Yum, cheese spätzle with fried onions for lunch! I figured since I couldn't (wouldn't) eat the wienerschnitzel (who knew that "real" schnitzel is made with veal, not with chicken like it is in Israel!), I should ad least have something representative of typical Austrian cuisine. It was delicious, though a bit heavy.
The Imperial Silver Collection (Silberkammer) at the Hofburg Palace is impressive. I have never seen so many different sets of dishes or cutlery, even on the Crate & Barrel website! There are everyday silver place settings and dishes, pretty porcelain ones used by various monarchs on individual (or very infrequent) occasions, gilted the large numbers of beautifully-embellished chamber pots. 
I'm assuming that this is where the guards of the Hofburg Palace used to stand, but now they're mostly for tourists who want to take pictures (ie: me and Gaby). Upon trying to get down from my perched position, I realized that my shoes were stuck in the teeth! 

As we left the complex of the Hofburg Palace, we saw these guys doing some incredible Rollerbade tricks.

When we left Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church) on Friday afternoon, we saw a sign advertising a free organ concert on Saturday night, so we made note and came back for it. The concert was for organ (obviously) played by Christopher Klöckl and french horn, played by R. Horvath.
If you look closely, at the center of the painting in the middle of the photo (which is above the altar at the front of the church), you can see the Tetragrammaton painted. Really not sure what it's doing there. (One of the other altars, in the smaller side chapels, also had Hebrew calligraphy painted, though neither Gaby nor I could figure out what it was [supposed to be] written.)

A video clip I took during Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

Our day on Sunday started with a leisurely walk around the border of the Ringstraße (that funny ß-thing is a double "s"), which I learned about in one of my classes in Prague. It turned out to be a good decision to save the Ringstraße, garden, and Schönbrunn palace tours for Sunday, because the weather was gorgeous! Our first stop was at the Burggarten imperial gardens. That's where the famous statue of Mozart is--he played for the court at age 6, and quickly became a celebrity--but also where this beautiful, blooming magnolia tree is. I was getting a bit jealous looking at everyone's pictures of campus in the springtime, so climbing this tree made me especially happy!
On Saturday we'd seen the top of the Rathaus (City Hall) from the Hofburg Palace, but didn't make it over there, so this was our first view of the immense building structure. I do have a picture of the entire building (ie: without it's noggin cut off), but this one is of me and Gaby together, and I figure you can imagine what the top part of the tower looks like. You never get a perfect shot when you ask strangers to take pictures, but that's okay. 
It was such a beautiful day out! For the first time the whole weekend, there was no threat of rain, and I was wishing I'd kept my Chacos on instead of chickening out and wearing sneakers in the morning. 
Looking down one of the hallways on the porch (for lack of a better word) of the Rathaus is kind of like looking down a hall of Holder Courtyard, no?
Hundertwasserhaus is a bit far from the rest of the things that one generally sees in Vienna, but it was definitely worth  going. It's a regular old apartment building where normal people live, except that it's designed by the funky painter-turned-architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. There's apparently a "Modern Art Toilet," but neither of us wanted to pay .6 euros to use it.
Johann Strauss, immortalized in the form of this kitschy statue in Stadtpark. There's also a statue of Schubert, among others, but we wanted to make sure we spent enough time at Schönbrunn Palace, so we walked quickly.  
We were impressed by the expanse of the Schönbrunn Palace when we approached it from the front, until we went around back and saw this view. Huge, beautiful (though without their usual spring flowers yet, apparently) laws leading up to a hill scattered with picnickers and sunbathers, atop of which stands the Gloriette.  Though it was a bit of a hike to get to the top, the view we got while picnicking (last picture in this post) was well worth it. 
Our lunch, mostly scavenged and saved from our huge breakfasts that we got at our hostel. Delicious chive bread, blueberry and apricot jam, Nutella, cream cheese, butter, and apples! Yum. It was hard to make ourselves get up from the sunny lawn and go inside to do the tour of the palace (essentially a sequel to Saturday's tour of the Hofburg Palace, complete with very similar audio guides, it turns out) because it was so beautiful out!
Before we went back down to the palace, I went all the way up to the Gloriette.  On my way down, I saw this woman teaching a bunch of kids how to make bubbles! (There's a whole series of these photos, which will appear on Facebook when I finally post pictures from the semester.)
The funny faces are because we're staring directly into the sun. But this is what we got to look down on while we were eating our lunch: the palace with the whole city behind it! We had just enough time after finishing our tour to get apfelstrudel (yum!) before heading to pick up our bags at the hostel and (barely) making our bus back to Prague.

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