It’s good to be the seat of empire.

May 1-3 – Vienna, Austria

Guten Tag! (That’s “good day” in German)

We left Krakow early in the morning. It was sprinkling a little, so we had to use our umbrellas as we walked almost a mile to the train station through the nearly empty streets.

Linda and Don had some coffee while we waited for the train to arrive. This time we were going to be riding in a 2nd class car. Trains in Europe usually have two classes of cars, first and second. The first class cars are a little roomier and nicer. Our train passes allowed us to use first class cars, but this train didn’t have any.

PKP car corridor PKP train (between Krakow and Vienna)

We were traveling on May 1st, which is a holiday all over Europe (called “May Day’). After a few stops along the way, every seat on the train was full and there were people sitting and standing in the corridor. We were really glad we’d gotten seat reservations.

We took a cab from the train station to our hotel, in the heart of the city. As we got closer to the city center, we saw more and more people, banners, stages set up in plazas, booths and other signs there was a city-wide party going on. After checking in to our hotel we went around the corner to The Graben and St. Stefan’s Square; two of the main squares in the city. They were packed. The cafe tables were all full, there were booths everywhere, stages with entertainers… even a little merry-go-round!

St. Stefan\'s Platz (Vienna)

Vienna was the seat of the Austro-Hungarian empire. You remember the Wittelsbachs who ruled Bavaria (southern Germany)? In Vienna it was the Hapsburgs. The first Hapsburg rulers were Counts in Austria around 1100, over 900 years ago. They, like the Wittelsbachs, lost all their power and territory at the end of World War I. At their peak, they ruled the Austro-Hungarian empire, which at the time was the second largest country in Europe, after Russia. Vienna was it’s capital city. With such a large empire, Vienna became a very rich and powerful city. Even today, almost 100 years after the fall of the empire, the architecture and lifestyle in Vienna oozes power and luxury. Here are some of the government buildings still standing from that era.

Hofburg (Vienna) Hofburg Museum (Vienna) Hofburg Library (Vienna)

The Hapsburgs had a city palace (Hofburg) and a country palace (Schoenbrunn); we visited their country palace (easy to get to, we took the subway).

Schoenbrunn with Statue (Vienna)

The grounds were beautiful and huge; the interior was also, but they don’t let you take pictures inside. Don kept fingering the latch on his camera case, but Linda would give him a hard stare and he’d stop. I could tell he really wanted to take pictures of the beautiful rooms. He did take shots of the gardens and exteriors:

Schoenbrunn front (Vienna) Schoenbrunn Rear (Vienna) Neptune brunnen (Vienna) Schoenbrunn Roman ruins (Vienna)

That last photo is of a fake Roman ruins the Hapsburgs built in their garden. A lot of European leaders wanted to show they descended from Roman emperors, and having a Roman ruin, even a fake one, told the world they were connected to the Roman empire.

Back in town, we did some sight-seeing. First stop was the major art musuem in the in-town palace complex. The paintings were fabulous, but even more impressive was the building itself. Like in Prague’s history musuem, the interior stairs were all marble, gold gilting, and painted walls and ceilings. Wow!

Museum gallery Museum staircase (Vienna) Musuem lightwell (Vienna)

From the museum, we headed back into the main square, St. Stefan’s, to visit the church there. It’s a big Gothic cathedral, with some neat stuff inside.

St. Stefan\'s (Vienna) St. Stefan\'s nave (Vienna) St. Stefan\'s Organ Pulpit in St. Stefan\'s (Vienna) Fenstergucker (Vienna)

Do you see those last two pictures? The next-to-the-last is the pulpit in the church, where the preacher stands. It is carved out of stone. Can you believe how detailed it is? The last picture is a close up of the lower right-hand portion of the pulpit. It’s a carving of the guy who built the cathedral, looking out of a window at the church interior. I guess he wanted to keep an eye on things.

Other things we saw walking around Vienna:

\"My\" pub (Vienna)
Don doesn’t really own it, he just wishes he did.

Jesuitinerkirche interior (Vienna)
The inside of the “Jesuit” church, the most marble-icous church we saw this trip.

Wierd clock (Vienna)
A clock that tells time by figures representing the hour marching across the face of a ruler showing the minutes.

Military band (Vienna)
A band dressed in old military uniforms playing in one of the palace courtyards.

One afternoon we went to see the Vienna Boy’s choir. This group was originally formed by Emperor Maximillian I in 1498. They’ve been siging Sunday mass in the Hofburg palace ever since. They also go on tour, and give concerts in the Musikverein building in Vienna, which is where we saw them. You’re not allowed to take pictures of them signing, so Don took a picture of the back of the hall during intermission.

Brahmssaal (Vienna)

The hall wasn’t very big, but it was (like most of Vienna) decorated with a lot of gold highlights. We had really good seats and could see the boys. Some of them were acting kind of goofy during the performance, trying hard not to grin and poking each other when they didn’t think people were looking. Probably they’re just like some of you. They range in age from 10 to 14.

We also had to do laundry (again). Linda and I did the laundry while Don went looking for a post office to mail home a lot of the printed material (books, maps, brochures) we no longer needed. The luggage was starting to get a little heavy.

Laundry in Vienna

Yes, Don had to go out and shoot at night:

Church at night in Vienna Plague column at night (Vienna) Karnterstrassse by night (Vienna) St. Stefan\'s at night (Vienna)

When we left Vienna Sunday morning (May 4th), the crowds were gone and it was quiet. I’ll write you again from Salzburg, the last city we’re going to this trip.

Graben Sunday morning (Vienna)

Auf Wiedersehen,

Flach Stanley

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