There’s nothing like landing in a foreign country late at night, without speaking the language, and getting locked out of your hotel. Fortunately our driver—who didn’t speak German either—was able to communicate with the woman who HUNG UP on my friend, Joanna, when she tried to ask how to get in. Finding our room involved Google Translate (our driver was Romanian), finding and accessing a key in a combination locker, the flashlights on our smart phones and finally a tiny elevator that dumped us down the hall from what we guessed was our room. Thankfully, we didn’t get killed breaking in to someone else’s room at 1:00 a.m.
To say the least, it was quite the experience. I was so exhausted from the jet lag and our non-stop schedule I slept in until 1:00 the next day.
But the coffee, the Viennese coffee, made up for everything. Once I was up and at ‘em we headed out to walk around the city. I decided to leave my camera at the hotel because I’d been carrying it everywhere for the previous 10 days and needed a break. So I snapped all of the first-day pics with my iPhone.
One of the buildings we were intent on seeing the first day was the Rathaus, which is the seat of the local government in Vienna. Much to my surprise (and obsession) there was a circus there! I immediately wanted to go. A German circus in Vienna? When would I ever get that chance again? My friend was game, but wasn’t as starry eyed as I was. I went to the ticket booth to see about purchasing tickets for the nighttime show and was told that they were sold out.
“That’s fine,” I said. “What other days are available?”
She told me that the circus was completely sold out for the remainder of the performances, which happened to be the four days we were going to be there.
I was not willing to take no for an answer. Even though we walked away empty handed, I still felt good about it.
“You watch,” I told Joanna. “It’s going to happen. We’re going to find tickets.”
She wasn’t as optimistic but was happy to let me have my fantasy.
I pulled out my phone and went to Craigslist (Yes! Vienna has Craigslist!) No tickets. Apparently this was a big freaking deal, which made me want it all the more.
Joanna and I walked around Vienna, stopped and had wine/coffee and a snack. When it started to get dark we decided to go back to Rathaus and see if we could find any scalpers. Joanna went up to the ticket booth and was told once again that they were sold out. While she was standing there, she saw a guy selling ONE ticket. We bought it, thinking we could each attend one half of the performance.
No! I thought. This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen! We need TWO.
"Go ask at the box office again,” I said to Joanna.
She looked at me as if to say, “You are killing me. We’ve already asked TWICE.”
I didn’t budge. She went and asked again. The guy said,
“Well, I have this one seat that’s behind a pole, but you can see most of the performance.”
It was 1/10th the price of regular seats. She took that one and once we got in some kids asked her to trade places with them so they could sit together. So we both ended up with excellent seats (though not together.)
All but about 5% of the talking was in German, so we didn’t understand much of anything. But it was fabulous — like Cirque du Soliel meets Barnum and Bailey, without the animal welfare issues. I happened to get caught up in a clown routine about halfway through the performance, where he used masking tape to secure me and two other people to a pole! No pics of that, fortunately.
This circus was MAGIC.
The next day we headed for the Belvedere, which is a gorgeous museum. These first two paintings are of Maria Theresa, the mother of Marie Antoinette. Maria Theresa was the only female Hapsburg ruler, and gave birth to 16 children (only 13 survived infancy.) Her favorite child was Maria Christina, which was the only one she allowed to marry for love. The others were her political pawns— she married them off for the good of the state. Maria Theresa believed she was the boss of all of her children, no matter how old they were or what their rank was.
I absolutely LOVED seeing Gustav Klimt’s Judith and Adam and Eve up close. There were lots of others I enjoyed, two of which are posted below. The one on the right is by a Viennese artist by the name of Franz Eybl. The one on the left is by none other than Claude Monet (of Water Lilies fame.)
The next morning we loaded up on Viennese coffee again and then went to the Schönbrunn Palace, which was the main summer residence of the Hapsburg rulers. They didn’t allow cameras or any pictures inside, but the grounds were absolutely breathtaking.
On the way back in to town I had to keep up the European door theme.
Before dinner we paid a visit to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Vienna. We even attended a German mass there, so we could get closer to the front. It was more spectacular than the photos reveal.
One of the best meals we had in Vienna was at a Romanian restaurant called Restaurant Bukowina. But our final night I finally got to sample authentic Wiener Schnitzel at a wonderful restaurant called Lugeck. Gluten-free, no less! I loved the food in Austria.
It’s funny. When I got back home I thought Vienna was my least favorite of the four countries I visited. But going back through this blog I can’t imagine how I thought that. I loved them all. Next up (finally): Italy!
Shameless confession: I totally listened to Billy Joel’s “Vienna” on the plane ride to Austria.