Monday, October 7, 2013


Thursday was national holiday in Germany, celebrating the reunification of East and West Germany every year on October 3. I used comp time to take Friday off and took a four day weekend in Vienna. I stayed with one of my German language classmates, Janet, and had just a fantastic weekend. I really loved Vienna - the center is small and compact and full of historical and cultural sites, lovely cafes, and awesome people watching.

The highlights of the city are the two Hapsburg palaces. The Hofburg Palace lies right smack dab in the middle of the city, just inside the ring where the old Vienna wall stood until the 1800s when the royal leaders realized that the most serious threat to their rule lied from the citizens within the city rather than invaders from outside. They replaced the wall with a wide boulevard, street cars and dozens of gorgeous public parks and buildings. The Hofburg Palace today houses several museums, as well as a number of public offices, including the Chancellor. 

As fantastic as the Hofburg Palace is, and trust me, it is fantastic, the Schönbrunn Palace is even more amazing. The size of it is indescribable. When I worked in Rome, people always noted that you could not really tell how big St. Peters Basilica was because everything else around was just as huge, so it didn't seem so big. In theory, the same idea applies to the Schönbrunn Palace; the buildings and grounds are so big that its vastness starts to hide itself...but just for a moment. Then it just looks big again.

In the Palace itself, you can either do the "Imperial tour" or the expanded "Grand tour." The imperial tour focuses on the rooms decorated and used by the last important Austrian Emperor Franz Josef and his wife Sisi. These two are everywhere in Vienna. This rooms are impressive, grand, ornate, and simply oozing wealth. The mirror-lined and chandelier bedecked grand ballroom glistens and impresses with giant frescoes overhead (although the frescoes themselves don't rate all that well to many of the Italian masters). Yet, somehow, despite all this grandeur, the real highlight of the tour are the Rococo era rooms decorated by Empress Maria Teresa. Parquet floors, inlaid wood walls, Chinese wall coverings. Each room is seriously more impressive than the previous. Finally, the vast grounds - open to the public for 200 years - manage a valiant attempt to make the Palace look normal-sized.

View of roof of St. Stephens

Hotel Sacher - original home of the Sacher Torte

Mozart - selling shitty tickets to random concerts

National Library - part of the Hofburg Palace

No idea why these chairs were there

Hofburg Palace

Part of a 30 meter (100 feet) bronze center piece

Place setting for one

You're not going to want to eat off these dishes - these were used in another room

Art Museum

Tried to sneak a picture of this lady - I think she saw me taking it

Gas station

Opera House


Interesting door knockers at flea market

Old cameras at flea market

Schönbrunn Palace

These porcelain stoves were used to heat rooms.
No doors in front as servants stoked fires from behind wall to keep soot our of room. 

The grounds at Schönbrunn Palace

The grounds at Schönbrunn Palace

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1 am fuel stop - Cheese filled sausage stuffed down a hoagie bun

Leaving bar #3 (of 4) at 3 am

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