Tuesday, November 5, 2013

European Adventure, Part 1: Vienna.

On October 17, I embarked on a trip through four cities in Western Europe.  My first stop was Vienna, where I stayed with an old graduate school friend of mine, Casey.  Vienna is a beautiful city nestled in eastern Austria (it's actually very close to Bratislava, Slovakia's capital city), and feels like a diverse representation of cultures with it's Germanic and Hungarian history.  Lots of people of Turkish descent inhabit the city, too.  Of course, for me it was exciting to be in a city known for it's music culture, Sachertorte, and Hapsburg family history. 

It was also a place where I struggled to remember the German I "learned" in high school.  That was kind of a fun experiment. 

Flying into Vienna.

Inside the Kunsthistoriches Museum, the main art museum in the center of the city. 

Outside the museum. 

St. Stephen's. 

Inside the cathedral.  Stunning arches.

Walking around the downtown area.  It was cold, by the way!

On the first day, I visited the Kunsthistoriches Museum, peeked into St. Stephen's, and did some walking around.  Casey and I also went for a traditional Viennese breakfast:
Roll with butter and jam and a Melange, which is sort of a cross between coffee and cappucino.  I really liked the coffee in Vienna.   

Schonbrunn Palace.  Just look at that tasteful and not too extravagant architecture!  Nothing like what I saw later in Versailles...

walking around the grounds surrounding Schonbrunn.

The gardens at Schonbrunn; that structure off in the distance is an atrium-like building that rests on top of a small hill. 

The view of Schonbrunn and Vienna from the top of said hill.  Fall was out in full force in Austria, which was lovely. 
 The second day, I decided to head out to the Schonbrunn Palace, which is where the Hapsburgs spent the majority of their time when not inside the city at the Imperial Apartments (...which I visited the first day but have no photos of.  "No Photo" is a very big thing in European museums.)  It ended up being a beautiful day to peer into the modest home (ha) of the former rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  Here I got my first taste of how royal families of Europe lived not so long ago. 

I spent some time on top of this hill, writing in my journal about my travel experiences so far and about some of the differences I was noticing about people in Austria versus America.  One thing I was struggling to reconcile at this point was the indifference most people seemed to have when it came to other people.  On the trains and in the street, people do not greet or smile those they encounter.  They stoically look away and mind their own business.  This behavior was especially noticeable when I was clearly lost one day; no one offered to help me.  Casey pointed out to me later that the Viennese do not like to assume that others need help, so they wait for you to ask for what you want or need.

Apparently, while Viennese people prefer to mind their own business in most matters, they are direct in other ways:

Well, they probably do...or they look older than they really are even if they live long lives, so...

Vienna was the first city in which I encountered the "cafe culture" of Europe.  Cafes and bars are a very big part of the daily lives of most European people.  Each place I stepped into had it's own special take on things.
You can't see him, but there's a guy DJing to the right of this photo while folks drink their coffee.

Cafe Hawelka.  Famous for it's doughnut-like desserts, which we tasted.  Of course.  I never turn down fried breads.
Belvedere Palace, which is now an art museum.

On the grounds of the Belvedere.
Stairwell detail.  Ornamentation is a BIG thing in European architecture. 
 My last day in Vienna took me to the Belvedere, which is a palace now used as an art museum.  If I could've photographed it, I would have shown you all the entire ROOM filled with Klimt paintings, including his most famous "The Kiss".  Out of all the art I saw in Vienna, this room was my favorite.  There is nothing quite like the glowing quality found in his works and the expressiveness of the forms he painted.  Again, the weather was amazing (mid 50s and sunny), and I enjoyed a nice long walk outside the museum after taking a look around.

Overall, I really liked all of the offerings this Austrian city had.  I liked walking along the Donau (the Danube for us non-Viennese folks), peering into the former lives of the Hapsburg family, and learning more about European culture in a city that is perhaps more easily accessible to an American than other cities on the continent.  If I go back, I'd like to experience a bit more of the music scene there and hopefully travel to Salzburg, too.  Oh, and get fat on eating dessert as a meal.  Apparently, that's a thing you can do in Vienna.  And why wouldn't you? 

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